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How do you know if you have Formosan termites and how do you get rid of them?

Swarms of the pesky flying insects have been spotted around the Houston area and they can be bad news for homeowners.

HOUSTON — Mosquitoes and fleas aren’t the only pests that love all this rain. Those dreaded Formosan termites have come to town and they’re ready to do some damage.

“Formosan subterranean termites are considered one of the most aggressive and economically devastating termite species in the country,” according to bug experts at Texas A&M.

What we know about Formosans

  • The first Formosan termites in Texas were discovered in 1956 around the Houston Ship Channel. It’s believed they were transported in wooden shoring timbers shipped from the Far East.
  • “They have an enormous reproductive capacity and a typical colony may exceed 1 million insects,” TAMU entomology experts say.
  • Like other termites, they feed on wood, but they attack a greater variety of wood at a faster rate than others thanks to the massive colonies. 
  • They’ve also been known to eat through things like thin sheets of soft metal, asphalt, plaster, creosote, rubber and plastic.
  • They swarm at night in late May and June and they’re attracted to artificial light.

RELATED: Houston, we have a problem! It's raining termites

How do you know when you have termites?

  • You can distinguish ants from termites by the shape of their bodies, wings and antennae. Formosan termite “soldiers” have tear-drop or egg-shaped heads compared to the more rectangular head of native subterranean termites.
  • The wingless Formosan “workers” are white or off-white while the winged reproductives or “swarmers” are yellowish-brown.
Credit: TAMU
  • Look for mud shelter tubes constructed of soil, wings that have been shed or damaged wood as signs of an active termite infestation. When tapped with a hard object, the wood will sound dull or hollow. This evidence may be inside or around a structure.

How do you get rid of Formosan termites?

  • If there’s no sign of wood damage but they’ve flown into your house, some homeowners swear by a spray made up of ½ vinegar and ½ lemon juice.
  • You can also use hair spray to knock them down and then vacuum them up.
  • If there’s damage or you’re unsure, call the experts.
Credit: TAMU