The dreaded “super termite” has come to the Midlands.
Rodney Dorn of Columbia-based Modern Exterminating was inspecting a Lexington County house in June when he came across a colony of termites that were different than those native to the area. He took a sample to Dr. Eric Benson, an entomology professor at Clemson, and Benson confirmed it was a Formosan subterranean termite — colloquially referred to as a “super termite.”
Super termites earn their nickname by aggressively eating through wood. In under a month, a colony can chew through a foot-long 2X4, according to an article from Pestworld.org.
“They eat about 10 times faster than our eastern subterranean termite...(which is) what we have here,” said Modern Exterminating owner Glenn Matthews.
While termites native to the Midlands often have colonies in the thousands, super termites have colonies in the millions, according to an article from the University of Florida. Super termites, which can burrow underground 300 feet from a hive, are also exceptionally difficult to kill.
“History shows when they get in an area, they pretty much take over,” Matthews said.
However, there are areas in SC where super termite populations have been locally wiped out. This species of termites was found in York County in 2000 and Pickens County in 2010, but those termite populations are believed to have been eradicated, Benson said.
Super termites are an invasive species from Asia that were introduced into America in the 1950s, most likely after military hardware — such as wooden pallets infected with Formosan termites — returned home from the Korean War, Benson said.
Super termites were first found in the Palmetto State in Charleston in the 1950s.
Until a month ago, Matthews believed they wouldn’t show up in the Midlands anytime soon.
“I still thought it would be another 10 to 15 years,” he said. “I guess I was dead wrong about that.”
Though termites can wreak havoc on a home, they aren’t a threat to people. Matthews, being more courageous than most, once stuck his finger inside a termite nest “just to see what would happen.”
He said the super termites latched onto his finger and caused a slight burning sensation, but nothing that could seriously injure someone.
Matthews advised against homeowners trying to remove termites themselves, as removing them could disturb the nest and cause the infestation to spread further. Benson agrees.
“The same termite control products and strategies we use to control native subterranean termites work on Formosan subterranean termites,” said Benson, who does not use the term “super termite.” “Pest management professionals in our coastal counties have been successfully protecting homes from Formosan termite attack for decades. The same can be done for homes in the Midlands where Formosan termites may now be found. You just need to hire a company that knows what they are doing.”