Termites are severe wood-destroying pests causing tens-of-millions of dollars of damage annually to wooden structures across the United States. The Houston area is home to many types of termites, including the Drywall Termite and the Subterranean Termite.
The Formosan Termite was originally found in Texas in Houston in 1956. Drywood Termites are secretive insects that are difficult to detect. Because the live deep inside wood, they are seldom seen unless they are swarming or repair work is being done in an infected home. Subterranean Termites cause much more damage in Houston each year than fires and storms combined. These termites live in underground colonies, and utilize pipes and cracks to enter the unprotected home. Texas A&M Studies Formosan Termites Originally Found in Houston in 1956 “Swarming of Formosan termite reproductives occur on or near Mother’s Day in most Gulf Coast cities,” noted Dr. Grady J. Glenn, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service program specialist with Agricultural & Environmental Safety, Pesticide Safety Education Program and board certified entomologist. Glenn said these insects were first found near the Houston Ship Channel around 1956 and have been spread to many of the larger metropolitan areas in Texas.
Formosan Termites in Houston, Texas
Formosan Termites Publication: Publication maintained by the Center for Urban & Structural Entomology at Texas A&M University, includes a map illustrating the current counties in Texas that have a confirmed infestation of Formosan termites. Dr. Roger E. Gold is the endowed chair of the Urban Entomology Center in the department of entomology at Texas A&M, which has scientists actively involved in the research of Formosan subterranean termites and other arthropods affecting urban populations.
“These insects are one of the most aggressive and economically important termites in the U.S.,” Glenn said. “Like other termites, these insects feed on materials containing cellulose, but they are known to attack a larger variety of wood and many species of live trees, including oak and pecan trees. They can have colonies well in excess of one million insects; whereas, common subterranean termites in this area have only about a tenth as many individuals. AgriLife Extension has indicated that homeowners and pest management professionals should be on the watch for infestations of these termites anywhere in Texas and certainly in the Houston, Texas, area.
“The swarming of native subterranean termites occurs during the day, while Formosan subterranean termite swarms begin to occur during the evening, and the reproductive swarmers are attracted to lights,” Glenn said. The termite infestation can begin in your garden. The AgriLife Extension bulletin E-367, “Formosan Subterranean Termites“, is available at https://insects.tamu.edu/extension/publications/epubs/e-367.cfm It contains information related to their identification, biology, prevention, and pest management.”Non-repellent termiticides and termite baiting systems can be utilized to control infestations,” Glenn said. “The most common way they have been spread throughout Texas is through the use of recycled railroad ties used in landscaping projects. Once they are introduced into an area, they typically become established there.
Termites are soft-bodied, approximately one-quarter inch to one-half inch long, pale insects that can be in several different forms (castes). The different castes found in a termite colony are the founding king and queen (primary reproductives), swarmers (alates, young kings and queens), soldiers,and workers (pseudergates). These general castes are shown in Figures 2 and 3. The winged forms (alates) have two pair of wings that are almost equal in length. When termites are swarming, this caste is what homeowners are reporting. The caste that causes damage to wooden structures is the worker. Workers are not usually visible unless their mud tubes or tunnels are damaged, exposing the crawling termites.
Generally, subterranean termites must maintain contactwith soil to survive. However, there are occasions where native subterranean termites can live above ground in structures and be completely cut off from soil contact; although, this is not common. The probability that termites will attack a woodenstructure within 10 years to 20 years after construction is greater than 90 percent in the Gulf Coast area. Termite attacks may even begin within a year after construction. Proper treatment of the soil with a liquid termiticide (insecticide formulated fortermite control) before construction (pre-treatment) significantly reduces the threat from subterranean termites. If you know or suspect that your home is infested with termites, retainthe services of a professional termite management company. Termite management requires specialized equipment, professional knowledge and experience.