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Archive for the ‘Termites’ Category

New Orleans and Formosan Subterranean Termites

The Formosan subterranean termite is an invasive pest in the southeastern states and parts of southern California. These destructive pests probably first arrived in the country within infested boxes that were unloaded from ships that had just returned to the US from the far east during the 1940s. However, Formosan subterranean termites (FST) were not officially documented as inhabiting the US until the 1960s when colonies were recovered near Houston. Less than two years after FST colonies were discovered near Houston, the pests were documented in New Orleans, but they did not emerge as major pests in the city until the late 1970s and 1980s. By 2000, FSTs had inflicted more than one billion dollars in structural damages in the Gulf Coast States, and most of this damage occurred in the French Quarter. That same year, experts estimated that 80 percent of urban buildings and nearly all residential homes in New Orleans had been affected by FSTs.

Today, FSTs can be found in 11 states, but pest control authorities have managed to contain the further spread of the pests, and they remain most problematic in New Orleans. Humans are largely responsible for this species’ expansion across the southeast, as research conducted by Brian Forschler, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, provides strong evidence that infested railroad ties from Louisiana were sold as landscaping products to stores in nearby states. In the late 1990s, the federal government initiated a 15 million dollar area-wide FST abatement program in New Orleans that would go on to last for 15 years. This program was named Operation Full Stop, and while there is no way to eradicate FSTs once they have been established, the program succeeded in containing the pests and reducing infestation rates in New Orleans. The program also allowed pest control professionals and urban entomologists to better understand how this exotic termite pest behaves and how it could be controlled. For example, it was found that an FST colony can eat 1,000 pounds of wood per year, while a native subterranean termite colony can only eat a mere seven pounds of wood per year. This is not surprising considering that a mature FST colony contains 10 million individual termites, far more than the hundreds of thousands found in mature native subterranean termite colonies. In fact, a home in Lake Charles was found to be infested with one FST colony that contained 70 million individual termites.

Were you living in New Orleans while Operation Full Stop was in progress?

How To Tell If A Crevice Or Crack In Concrete Slabs Or Mortar Foundations Make A Home Vulnerable To Subterranean Termite Attack?

Subterranean, drywood and dampwood termite species can be found throughout the United States, and many are known pests of structural wood within homes, while a few others mainly infest wooden furniture and finished wood items. Termites are easily the most economically significant pests of homes and buildings in the world, and they are particularly destructive in the US where they inflict well over five billion dollars in structural damage annually. It could be argued that Louisiana sees more devastation from termite pest activity than any other city in the country, and possibly the entire world.

The unusually high rate of termite infestations in Louisiana is largely due to the invasive presence of the uniquely destructive Formosan subterranean termite species. This species is only problematic in the Gulf Coast states, and they damage wood at a relatively rapid rate due to the enormous size of their mature colonies, which contain around ten million individual termites, far more than the 50,000 to one million individuals within mature native subterranean termite colonies. Subterranean termites dwell below the ground where workers are able to infest the structural wood at the base of timber-framed homes by traveling through extremely narrow cracks and crevices in concrete slabs and foundation walls.

Subterranean termite workers cannot access structural wood within slab-on-ground homes, as long as concrete slabs and brick and mortar foundations are completely free of cracks and crevices. Unfortunately, cracks quickly begin to take form on concrete slabs and foundations shortly after homes have been built. Also, slab-on-ground homes are particularly vulnerable to subterranean termite attacks because workers can easily travel through narrow expansion joints where slab edges meet the bottom of exterior walls. The narrowest concrete crack that subterranean termite workers have been documented as penetrating measured only 1.3 mm in width, and another researcher claims he witnessed a worker travel through a concrete crack as narrow as .8 mm in width, but this claim cannot be verified. A recent study carried out by American researchers found that most workers from all subterranean termite species can squeeze through cracks as narrow as .93 mm in width, but many were able to fit through .76 mm wide cracks. The study’s authors concluded that any crack in concrete slabs or exterior foundation walls as wide as .396 mm, or 1/16 of an inch in width leaves the above home vulnerable to subterranean termite attack. Caulking cracks in slabs and exterior foundation walls will prevent workers from invading interior structural wood.

Have you inspected your home for cracks in concrete slabs and/or foundations that could be exploited by subterranean termite workers to access interior structural wood components?

The Most Important Indoor And Outdoor Areas To Inspect For Formosan Subterranean Termite Infestations And Related Damage

Louisiana is located in a geographic zone where termite pest activity is “heavy to severe,” and many experts believe that New Orleans is one of the most termite-ravaged cities in the world. Because of the high rate of termite destruction that occurs throughout Louisiana, homes in the state should undergo a professional termite inspection at least once per year. Termite inspections will not only determine if an infestation or related damage is present within a home, but inspectors will also pinpoint areas that are conducive to termite pests.

The tools needed to carry out thorough termite inspections are pretty basic, and they include a flashlight, a ladder and a sharp-pointed screwdriver. Since subterranean termites only infest moist structural wood, many inspectors use moisture meters to determine if structural wood members are vulnerable to termite attack. It is also common for inspectors to use acoustic emission detectors to determine if termites are already active within structural wood. In Louisiana, state-employed inspectors use infra-red cameras to detect termite activity within homes, and this inspection technique has become common among private pest control professionals in the state as well.

Inspectors are trained to recognize outdoor conditions that are known to attract subterranean termites to homes. For example, overgrown vegetation, dirt piles or landscaping ornaments that block foundation openings cause moisture levels to rise at the base of timber-framed homes. Tree stumps, fallen branches and other sources of wood debris will be cited for removal by inspectors. The crawl space is one of the most important areas of a home to inspect, as subterranean termites generally attack structural wood members that are easily accessible within crawl spaces. Crawl spaces also allow inspectors to locate leaking pipes, termite mud tubes, wood in contact with the ground, and damaged structural wood within wall voids. A home’s upper levels and attic spaces must also be inspected for drywood termite damage and aerial Formosan subterranean termite nests. Having a home regularly inspected for termite damage is the most effective way to prevent infestations from occurring.

Has your home been inspected for termites within the past year?




As Termites Swarm In New Orleans, Experts Claim That The City May Have The Worst Formosan Subterranean Termite Problem In The World

Subterranean termites are well known for being the most destructive group of insect pests in the world, and Louisiana is home to four subterranean termite pest species, each one of which inflicts considerable property damage in the state. The eastern subterranean termite is the most damaging species of its kind in the US due to its widespread habitat distribution, and while this species is a serious problem in Louisiana, it’s not nearly as problematic as the invasive subterranean termite species in the state. Unlike the eastern subterranean termite, the Formosan subterranean termite can only be found in the southernmost states, but most of the structural damage inflicted by this species occurs along the Gulf Coast, most notably in New Orleans.

Formosan subterranean termites (FST) swarm every year around Mother’s Day in order to establish new colonies, but this year FST swarms emerged a bit earlier than usual in Louisiana. May 5th saw the first FST swarms to occur in a major urban area this year. Slidell saw the first swarm, followed by Lakeview, then Metairie, and finally, New Orleans. The winged termites (alates) gravitated toward street lights, porch lights, and even indoor lights, prompting a large number of residents in all four cities to contact local pest control professionals and university extension officials with questions and concerns about the destructive pests.

Many experts in the state are already predicting a termite-heavy season in Louisiana this year based on the size of the FST swarms that occurred throughout the southern half of the state a few days ago. In fact, pest control professionals are saying that no city in the world is more heavily affected by FSTs than New Orleans, which sees around one billion dollars in FST damage annually. Luckily, residents do not need to be seriously concerned with the swarms unless they occur within their homes, but it is possible for alates to establish new colonies in excessively moist structural lumber. However, most FST infestations start when workers infest homes from the ground up. Considering the alarming nature of this year’s FST swarming season, residents of Louisiana may want to contact a pest control professional to have a termite inspection carried out on their property.

Have FST swarms been spotted near your home yet this year?

The Last Decade Has Seen Urban Populations Of Formosan Subterranean Termites Increase By 3,000% In Southern Louisiana

Several destructive termite species are known for infesting homes and buildings throughout Louisiana. Common termite pest species in the state include eastern subterranean termites, arid-land subterranean termites, and non-native powderpost drywood termites. The first species listed above causes more structural damage to homes annually than any other wood-infesting insect pest species on the continent. However, in Louisiana, the eastern subterranean termite is second to the invasive Formosan subterranean termite in terms of annual infestation rates and wood damage inflicted to homes.

Non-native Formosan subterranean termites (FST) are similar to other subterranean termite species when it comes to habitat and food preference. However, unlike most subterranean termite species, FST can establish aerial infestations in trees and other elevated wood sources. Native subterranean termite species in the US inhabit colonies located solely within ground-soil. Therefore, native subterranean termite infestations are largely limited to substructural wood components located around foundations and in crawl spaces where workers can make quick return trips to soil to hydrate as needed.

Obviously, workers in aerial FST nests cannot travel to the ground-soil to hydrate; instead, workers build enclosed nests that are designed to retain moisture. These nests are known as “carton” nests, and they are made from a mixture of soil, saliva, fecal matter, and chewed wood that hardens as it dries. Carton nests are also constructed in the ground-soil, and aerial carton nests can only be established around structural wood components that are sufficiently moist. Aerial nests are often located in wall voids and floor voids where moisture levels are consistently high.

While all termite species see reproductive swarmers (alates) establish colonies in new areas during certain times of year, the FST is the only subterranean termite species in the US that swarm around artificial lights in massive numbers during the nighttime hours. The presence of termite alates around street lights and porch lights indicate that colonies are nearby, and alates congregating around indoor lights could mean that an infestation has been established within a home.

The habitat range of FST in Louisiana has historically been limited to southern areas, particularly New Orleans, but today, these destructive insect pests have spread throughout the state. FST population numbers in Louisiana continue to grow, as the last decade has seen the number of FST colonies in the state increase by 3,000 percent. FST alates swarm each year during May and June in Louisiana.

Have you ever visually spotted an FST carton nest?




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