The United States had not contained any invasive termite pest species before the Formosan subterranean termite arrived in Texas during the 1950s. This pest species spread rapidly to other states along the Gulf Coast where they established colonies that have yet to be permanently eradicated. Due to the damp, humid and hot conditions within Louisiana, the tropical Formosan termite species became particularly abundant within the state where they still inflict major damage to both buildings and trees to this day.
Pest control professionals, entomologists and even Louisiana residents quickly learned that the Formosan subterranean termite was unique in the degree of destruction that they inflict. Unlike native termite species, which dwell in colonies that rarely contain more than one million individual termites, Formosan termite colonies were large enough to render homes and buildings uninhabitable in a relatively short amount of time during their infestations. In addition to being able to inflict a seemingly impossible degree of property destruction at an unusually rapid pace, it eventually became clear that this invasive termite species had the ability to eat through a particularly broad range of seemingly durable materials in order to access wood sources. For example, Formosan subterranean termites sometimes chew through electrical cables and telephone wires located below the ground where the insects dwell. Before the 1990s, termite damage to underground infrastructure had been unprecedented within the United States.
During the 1990s, Formosan subterranean termites cost several corporations and government utility services millions of dollars in damages to underground electrical and communication cables. Although these termites were not able to use their mouthparts to sever copper wiring, they were able to chew through the polyvinyl protective sheathing around these wires. This exposed the copper wiring to moisture, leading to corrosion and short circuits. This damage caused power outages and cut off telephone communication lines. In 1993, the communications corporation BellSouth lost at least 400,000 dollars to repairing cable damage that had been inflicted by the Formosan termite, and this figure only includes revenue loss within the New Orleans area. Since then, several other power outages occurred in Louisiana solely as a result of Formosan subterranean termite feeding activity.
Do you think that Formosan subterranean termites still pose a threat to underground infrastructure?