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Species Page

Formosan subterranean termite

Coptotermes formosanus

Distribution

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Host plants / species affected

Main hosts

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List of symptoms / signs

Fruit - internal feeding
Roots - external feeding
Roots - internal feeding
Stems - internal feeding
Stems - wilt
Whole plant - internal feeding
Whole plant - plant dead; dieback
Whole plant - wilt

Symptoms

Large colonies of C. formosanus generally live underground. When these termites invade a house aboveground, the foraging tubes of approximately 0.5-1 cm in diameter may be found connecting the soil and the infested house. In severe infestations, C. formosanus hollows out the wood leaving a paper-thin surface and the hollowed wood surface may look blistered or peeled. Another characteristic of C. formosanus is carton nest material that is made from termite faeces, chewed wood and soil. The honeycomb-like carton nests can be as large as 1-1.5 m in diameter and are usually found in structure-voids such as between walls and beneath sinks.

Prevention and control

Phytosanitary Measures

Some quarantine regulations exist that prohibit the transportation of materials infested with termites, but the quarantine is virtually unenforceable.  There are no phytosanitary measures to prevent C. formosanus being moved with potted plants, as exists for red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta), despite the fact that they do infest potted plants and can easily be moved to new locations.

Cultural Control and Sanitary Methods

The combination of water and wood or other cellulose materials provides attractive conditions for C. formosanus. Leaky roofs, plumbing, irrigations, air conditioning condensate and any portion of the building that may collect excessive moisture should be corrected to maintain an environment less attractive to C. formosanus. Because C. formosanus invades a house through the soil, the use of untreated wood in contact with the soil should be avoided. Plants should not be allowed to grow up onto the house structure and mulches should not be placed up against a house where the foundation becomes hidden. Wood debris should be removed and fire wood should not be stacked against the house.

Biological Control

Laboratory studies consistently demonstrated the pathogenicity of biological agents such as the entomopathogenic nematode, Neoaplectana carpocapsae [Steinernema carpocapsae] (Fujii, 1975) or the fungi Metarhizium anisopliae and Beauveria bassiana (Lai et al., 1982). However, field trials using these biological agents have been generally unsuccessful (Lai, 1977; Mauldin and Beal, 1989). Jayasimha and Henderson (2007) found that C. formosanus carries fungi on its integument and in its gut that will kill brown rot fungi (Monilinia laxa and Monilinia fructigena). Aspergillus flavus also associated with C. formosanus has potential as a biocontrol agent. Bacteria that attack Bacillus thuringiensus are also carried on the bodies of C. formosanus, and as colony size increases the ability to attack biological control agents becomes more efficient (Wang and Henderson, 2013). Most recently, bacteria has been combined with clay (an attractant and spore stabilizer) and low concentrations of a chitin synthesis inhibitor to successfully control C. formosanus in the lab. Field trials are still needed.

Chemical Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources:


This information is part of a full datasheet available in the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC);www.cabi.org/cpc. For information on how to access the CPC, click here.