Jason Boone

Jason and Lowell Boone, Better Off Dead Services (B.O.D.S.), Riverside, Calif., discovered a Formosan subterranean termite infestation in a Canyon Lake (Riverside County, Calif.) home, in June 2020.

The Boones encountered the termites in an uninhabited house (a rental property) in an upscale gated community on Canyon Lake reservoir, located in a hill area between Menifee and Lake Elsinore. The alates were swarming indoors and the infestation caused considerable damage to the exterior walls, indoor wall panels and the flooring of the second-floor bathroom.

Although Formosan termites are a localized pest, found primarily in the South, they have been found in California — including a confirmed sighting in La Mesa (San Diego County) in 1992 and again in 2018 — so pest management professionals in the Golden State are on the lookout for them.

“I noticed distinctive hair on the wings. The color of the wings and the body were just a little bit off — and I noticed that the amount of swarmers was just much greater than we normally encounter here in California,” said Jason Boone.

Boone alerted University of California-Riverside Professor of Entomology Dr. Chow-Yang Lee, who collected specimens from the infested site, and later conclusively identified them as Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus), using both morphological and molecular techniques.

Top left: Formosan termites discovered in Canyon Lake, Calif. Top right: The termites were discovered by Jason Boone (right) and confirmed by UC-Riverside’s Dr. Chow-Yang Lee (left). Bottom photo: Damage to the Canyon Lake home from the Formosan termites.

The original treatment strategy for B.O.D.S. was a traditional full house, trench and treat using Termidor HE, just as they would have done for subterranean termites. “Literally, while we were doing that treatment I was doing research about Formosan termites and was reading about satellite aerial colonies and how big those could be. If you are lucky to find those, you could do a wall void treatment, but these [termites] had been there for six, seven, maybe 10 years,” said Jason Boone. “At that point I decided to [via a subcontractor] do a full-house fumigation on top of that.”

Boone said the results have been excellent as they have not found any termites six months after the treatment.

UCR’s Lee said the university has done some population genetics work on the samples from Canyon Lake and La Mesa to determine if the species are related. They have sent those findings to the Journal of Economic Entomology and will be sharing the outcomes of that research in the future.

The author is senior digital editor of PCT magazine.