In the United States, the eastern subterranean termite is responsible for the greatest amount of termite destruction to manmade structures. On its own, this termite species may not be as destructive as some invasive species that exist in the US, but the eastern subterranean termite has the widest habitat distribution, making virtually every region of the US vulnerable to their attacks. Invasive termite species in the US, like Formosan and Asian subterranean termites, live within colonies that contain millions of individual termites, far more than the 50,000 or less that exist within eastern subterranean termite colonies. Luckily, invasive species are limited to the southeastern states, making them responsible for a relatively small proportion of total termite destruction in the US. For example, the Asian subterranean termite is regarded as the most destructive termite species in the world along with the Formosan species, but this species has not advanced beyond southern Florida. However, this is not the case in many other countries, particularly tropical countries, where invasive termites cause far more destruction than native species. This is why the most destructive termite species to manmade structures are usually the very same species that are the most adaptable to non-native regions. So which group of termites is most likely to establish an invasive presence in non-native regions?
So far researchers have documented around three thousand termite species, and of all these species, only 104 are considered significant pests. Twenty three of these pests belong to the Coptotermes (Rhinotermitidae) genus, which includes the two most destructive termite species in the world, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites. Traditionally, experts have considered termites belonging to the Coptotermes species to be the most likely of all termite species to establish an invasive presence in non-native countries. But this claim is currently being challenged by many termite researchers who believe that only Formosan and Asian subterranean termites have the adaptive ability to establish invasive populations all over the world. When invasive termites are discovered and described by experts in other countries, they are sometimes described as new Coptotermes species when they are really either Formosan or Asian subterranean species. Also, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites are referred to by many names in a variety of countries, and not all these names are known to termite researchers. For example, several recently discovered invasive species in India and Madagascar may all be Asian subterranean termites, but these termites are believed to be separate Coptotermes species solely because they are known by different names in different regions. Therefore, the claim that most termite species belonging to the Coptotermes genus are inherently well adapted to foreign territories may be false, but this has yet to be fully substantiated.
Do you live in a region of the US where invasive termites exist?