Termite Armageddon: The Battle Between Humans and Conehead Termites
Published: Mar 22
Conehead termites (Nasutitermes Corniger) or as previously called “tree termites” are a Caribbean native species that is starting to invade North America, primarily in Broward County, Florida. It is believed that they arrived in the United States inside a shipping container or pallet which traveled through the termite’s native range. They are a very destructive specie, as they will feed on basically anything that is made from lumber, dead or alive. The name of “tree termites” came from how they like to feed on live trees, and it is not uncommon to find their nest in one. They feed on the inner heartwood which is no longer alive, but essential to their survival and structural support; causing them to die from the inside out. However, after more studies were done on the specie the name “Conehead Termite” arises, this is due to their high number of soldiers which have a cone shaped head.
There are multiple signs that will indicate the presence of Conehead Termites. One of the main ways is to look at its population, as it is the only type of termite where about 20-30 percent of the colony is made up of Soldiers. Normally, other types of native termites will only have about 1-2 percent of soldiers in their nests. You can as well inspect the soldiers, and look closely at the shape of their head which you can compare to the picture above, inspect closely and look for a cone shaped head; which gives them the ability to shoot a “sticky” substance to their enemies as a defensive measure.
Another great indetifier of this specie of termites is their alates (winged termites) or swarmers. This are the ones in charge of reproducing and finding new areas to infestate and create new nests. The main difference is the color of their wings which are completely dark, other native termite species will have clear wings with dark veins only.
They as well will have a larger number of queens and kings. It has been found up to 25 termite queens and up to 28 termite kings in one single nests. This is what makes them so dangerous, as it gives them the ability to expand and move very rapidly; as well as the potential to reproduce more quickly with large colonies able to disperse more than 20,000 alates in just one swarming season.
Nest location and exposure can as well assist you in identifying the type of termite that you are dealing with. With conehead termites, their nest which are a dark brown in color, larger in size that other termite nests, and normally have a hard and bumpy surface. They are usually found in the exterior, in exposed areas like Trees, Open Ground, Shrubs or around Vegetation; however, they can still be found in the interior of building and structures.
Usually their nests will be located away from their food source, so they use brown mud tubes to move around in a more protected fashion as well as to maintain their moist environment which is required for them to survive. Tubes or the “termite’s highways” are usually narrow about ½ inch or less, and can be commonly found on the walls of a house, going up a fence, on the sides of trees and other surfaces.
Their infestation as previously mention has been mainly located in a small section of Florida. If you do find what you believe it is an infestation of Conehead termites contact immediately your county’s agricultural commissioner, as they are a very serious pest. They can consume citrus and orange trees as well, making an orange oil treatment ineffective on their kind. They as well commonly remain hidden until their number are large enough for expansion, which can be up to 2 years after. This makes them harder to control as by that time they have traveled through wood, increased their population and feeding areas.
The county will normally provide all extermination measures at no cost to you, they do it to eliminate any threats and stop them from expanding into other areas. If they do expend the damage will ultimately cost billions to home and property owners.
Here is an informational video by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Conehead Termites Division
Gilberto A. Cortez
California Licensed Operator and Contractor