'Super termites' causing big damage in Central Florida

They're small, they come in big numbers, and they're quietly doing serious damage in the walls of a lot of Central Florida homes: termites. However the ones we're supposed to have in Florida can't even compete with the damage coming from these bad bugs.

The Formosan Termites; what some are dubbing the ‘super termites,' and for good reason.

"By the time you recognize you have a problem, you may have a baseboard and a couple of studs damaged, but by the time you know you've got a problem with the Formosans it could be an entire wall," said Adam Jones from Massey Services in Orlando.

Jones and his crews throughout the area are very familiar with the Formosans, though the pests are still relatively new to the area.

Experts say Formosan Termites are originally from China and are believed to have come into the US on ships entering through New Orleans during World War II. Jones said over the years, the Formosans left major damage throughout the French Quarter and quickly spread throughout the Southern states.

A very invasive species.

"In Florida we've had them for probably 20 years," said Jones.

This summer, reports of Formosans have been popping up throughout the state, and experts say that includes in Central Florida.  So what makes the Formosan's so super?

Dr. Nan-Yao Su's studied the pests at the University of Florida-Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center. He says contrary to some rumors, they don't chew through concrete, though they can often get through very tiny cracks and gaps in concrete to get to the wood in your walls.

What gives the Formosan's their destructive reputation is the size of their colonies. Dr. Su said native species of termites will live in colonies thousands strong; maybe even 100s of thousands in some cases.

"Formosan termites typically would contain millions, sometimes up to 5 to 10 million termites in a colony," said Dr. Su.

As you can imagine: more mouths mean more damage.

Again, as Jones said before, native termites may damage to some baseboards in the time a massive Formosan colony take out most of the wall's structure.

"They are very tenacious, they are very efficient, and they are quiet, but they are ‘deadly,'" said Dr. Su. "They don't even show themselves until your house is about to cave in."

Jones said one of the few telltale indicators of a Formosan infestation is a large nest his crews will find inside the walls of home. Covered in holes and made up of mud and, as he put it, "termite goop," the Formosans can form it because of those large numbers in the colony.

However, you're only going to find that hidden in your walls once other issues cause you to dig inside. Until then, Jones said the Formosans come into your home from underground and likely won't even be noticed before the damage is done.

So his advice: get a pest guy!

"We recommend protecting the structure by treating it preventatively," said Jones. "Of course the treatment is important but it's the warranty or the guarantee that the company issues that's the more important aspect of it because that's what's gonna be there in case you get termite damage."

Because Jones said once one colony is thwarted another will likely take it's place. He said in Florida: it's really not if your home will have some sort of run in with termites, but when.