JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Earlier this summer, pest control companies in the Jacksonville, Fla., area — with confirmation from county extension agents — were reporting findings of Formosan termites.
In June, pest control companies found Formosan termites at nine more locations in the Riverside area of Jacksonville, according to a horticulture agent for Duval County. Also in June, a major infestation of Formosan termites forced the demolition of a 90-year-old building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These and other Formosan termite discoveries led Jacksonville to convene a Formosan Termite Task Force.
Curtis Rand, Regional Vice President of Jacksonville-based Bug Out Service, an Environmental Pest Service company, said in the last year Bug Out has treated five to 10 cases of Formosan termites out of the 1,100 to 1,200 cases of active termites. “Over the last 24 months, we’ve seen a significant increase in their presence. They’re now a major concern in Jacksonville, and they’re a tremendous concern in the Florida Panhandle.”
Rand said a more active real estate market might be the culprit. “People are building in areas that may have had established termite colonies. You remove a food source, then put another food source in the form of a house on top of it. We’re finding termites in one- and two-year-old homes.”
What makes Formosan termites so difficult to control? Bug Out branch manager David Hicks, who also was PCT’s 2012 Termite Technician of the Year, cited “colony size of thousands upon thousands,” adding that “with so many more mouths to feed, they can cause damage a lot faster.”
Other important differences include Formosan termite alates being rusty in color and hairy, while Eastern subterranean termite alates are black in color. Plus, Formosan termite soldiers are more aggressive in defending the colony, Hicks said. “The main thing is, Formosans will create what’s called a ‘carton nest’ as a way to bring moisture above ground. It’s like a mobile home up in an attic or in different areas of the house where they can actually live without contact with the soil. You have to be thorough to find those nests and treat them.”
Hicks has seen first-hand just what type of damage Formosan termites can do, recalling a house in which the entire back wall was damaged. “There was a swarm of tens of thousands of termites – the most I’ve ever seen in a termite swarm in all my years. The kitchen table and dining room floor were covered in them. When we pulled the paneling off the wall, the studs were damaged and we found two carton nests back there.”
(Pictured: Curtis Rand (left) and David Hicks (right) of Bug Out Service.)