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Formosan Termites In Louisiana Have Caused Numerous Power Outages By Eating Through Underground Electrical Cables And Phone Lines

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?

 

When Does Each Termite Species In Louisiana Swarm?

Since the spring season has finally arrived, termite swarms will become far more frequent in the state of Louisiana. Winged termite swarmers (alates) in the state take the rising spring temperatures as a cue to begin swarming. Unlike subterranean termites, the state’s four drywood termite species do not dwell within soil; intead, they infest individual pieces of wood, making their colonies easier to locate than subterranean termite colonies. Also, drywood termite colonies live in far less populated colonies than subterranean termites, as drywood colonies usually contain between a few hundred to a few thousand individual termites, as opposed to the 50,000 to 3 million termites that dwell within eastern subterranean termite colonies, not to mention Formosan subterranean termite colonies, which can contain as many as 50 million termites. Therefore, the vast majority of termite destruction in Louisiana and elsewhere is perpetrated by subterranean termite species, and the damage they cause is far more extensive in comparison to drywood termite damage.

Most termite control programs are geared solely toward subterranean termites, and these termites are easily the most economically costly in terms of termite treatments and termite damage repairs in Louisiana. While drywood colonies mostly limit their infestations to individual pieces of wood that are out in the open, subterranean colonies cannot be easily monitored, located or quantified due to their cryptic habitat below the soil’s surface. Therefore, subterranean termite swarms serve as the best indicator as to where subterranean termite colonies are located.

The most voracious termite species in Louisiana is the Formosan subterranean termite. Unlike all other termite species in the US, Formosans make a habit out of attacking both structures and numerous tree species. These termites swarm during May and June at dusk. The alates of this species possess a dark brown-colored head with hairy yellowish bodies. The most common termite species, the eastern subterranean termite, swarms during the day in between January and March, and occasionally during the fall in Louisiana. Alates of this species have a dark brown to black body and are slightly smaller than the Formosan. The dark southern subterranean termite swarms during the day during March and April and sometimes during the late fall. Alates of this species closely resemble the eastern subterranean termite, as they have dark-colored bodies, but they are a bit smaller in size.

Have you ever properly found a dead termite alate or its wings within your home?

 

How Do The Destructive Capacities Of Formosan And Eastern Subterranean Termites Differ?

There are many benefits to living in the state of Louisiana. For one thing, the city of New Orleans is rich in historical landmarks from America’s early days. This fact can easily be determined by the many historical structures that are still standing in the city’s French Quarter. Residents of the state also have access to an ocean coastline, and everyone in the world either already has or wishes to one day experience the Mardis Gras festivities. However, when it comes to insect pests, residents of the state are not so lucky. The state’s humid, balmy and damp conditions are ideal for insects, particularly termites, as most of the world’s termites dwell within tropical conditions. There exists 8 termite pest species inhabiting Louisiana, which is a relatively large number, as many northern states contain only one termite species. The two most destructive termite species in the state include the native eastern subterranean termite and the Formosan subterranean termite. Most residents are aware that the Formosan termite poses a much greater threat to native trees and structural woods than its native counterpart, but why exactly are Formosan subterranean termites so much more damaging than any other termite species in the state?

In order to understand why the Formosan termite infests natural and structural woods at a much greater rate than eastern subterranean termites, it is important to compare their colony sizes. While individual eastern subterranean termites do not necessarily eat through wood at a slower rate than individual Formosan termites, the latter contains much larger sized colonies that can inflict damage at an alarmingly fast rate. For example, when eastern subterranean termite colonies are first established, the queen spends a long period of time producing 20 eggs per day. Eventually this number reaches 60 eggs per day as a colony matures. This is nothing compared to the 1,000 eggs produced daily by Formosan termite queens. Even when each species’ colony is at its height of maturity, an eastern subterranean termite colony may contain a maximum of 3 million termites while a Formosan colony can contain 7 million or more. This size difference allows workers from one Formosan colony to cover 37,000 square feet of land compared to the measly 11,000 square feet of land covered by one colony of eastern subterranean termites. Also, Formosan subterranean termites infest a variety of tree species, but eastern subterranean termites are not known to feed on trees unless they are long dead or have been reduced to stumps. Due to the large foraging area of Formosan termites and their rapid reproduction rates, all attempts to eradicate their colonies from Louisiana have ultimately failed.

Are you able to visually discern between Formosan and Eastern subterranean termites?

Termite Damaged Structural Lumber Caused An Unfinished House To Collapse Onto Construction Workers

Louisiana is home to eight termite pest species, four of which are subterranean species that nest and forage within soil, while the other four are drywood species that nest and feed within the wood items they inhabit. In most US states, the native eastern subterranean termite species inflicts the greatest amount of property damage, but Louisiana is an exception in this regard, as the invasive Formosan subterranean termite is easily the most economically costly termite pest species within the state. As of 2011, the annual economic cost of controlling termites and repairing termite-damaged structures in the US amounted to around five billion dollars, one billion of which was attributed solely to Formosan subterranean termites. Amazingly, 500 million of this one billion dollar figure was spent on Formosan termite control and damage repairs within the state of Louisiana alone, making Louisiana the most Formosan termite-infested state in the US by a long shot.

While these statistics may come as a shock to Americans living outside of the state, Louisiana residents have no problem believing that Formosan termites cause such a massive degree of property destruction, as houses become infested with these termites regularly in the state. Formosan termites are so voracious, that their rapid wood-eating habits can cause structures to collapse. In fact, not long ago, a house in the state collapsed while it had been under construction. Not surprisingly, termite damage to the home’s structural lumber caused the collapse.

During the fall of 2016, a house that had been under construction with the St. Roch neighborhood of New Orleans collapsed onto two construction workers, injuring both of them. The two workers fled out of the house just seconds before it collapsed. The collapse resulted from the installation of a termite-damaged support structure that the workers believed had been solid. A subsequent inspection of the collapsed home revealed that structural load-bearing top plates had also sustained significant termite damage. Considering the Formosan termites’ ubiquitous presence within the state, the construction workers admitted that they did not consider the home’s collapse to be a big surprise.

Have you ever heard of a structure collapsing due to advanced termite damage to the structure’s timber-frame?

Sewer-Dwelling Moth Flies Can Emerge From Indoor Drains In Louisiana

There are around 150,000 Diptera fly species that have been documented, and experts estimate that there could be as many as one million Diptera fly species in the world today. Many Diptera fly species are categorized as nuisance pest species that can indirectly spread a number of diseases to humans. This is especially true when it comes to filth flies that make contact with feces and garbage, as these fly species can transport disease-causing pathogens to human skin and human foods. One of the most disgusting species of Diptera fly is the moth fly, or the drain fly as it is also commonly known. The drain fly gravitates toward feces, making sewers a popular hangout for these flies. This preferred dwelling space explains why these flies are often referred to as sewer flies. It is not uncommon for drain flies to emerge within homes through drains and they have even been found within toilets. Much like other nuisance fly species, like fruit flies and fungus gnats, drain flies can reproduce indoors where they can remain indefinitely. Drain flies are distributed in every region of the United States, but they are particularly numerous in Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states where the humid and wet weather provide the flies with ideal living conditions.

Drain flies can be discerned from other Diptera fly species by their small size, weak flying ability and greyish-black fuzzy exterior. Infestations are usually first noticed by their presence near sinks and tubs within bathrooms and kitchens. Drain fly infestations can become a nuisance in a relatively short amount of time, as both mated and unmated females lay between 30 and 100 eggs that hatch within a 48 hour period. Females lay their eggs on the slimy gunk that forms around drains, septic tanks and sewage filters. During maturation, the larvae and pupae feed on the fungi and bacteria that grow on this gunk. A newly hatched larva will become an adult drain fly after around 25 days of development. Drain flies cannot survive without high moisture conditions, so reducing moisture levels at the source of their breeding site can help to eradicate the pests.

Have you ever found a fly emerge from a drain?

 

 

 

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