Archive for the ‘Termites’ Category

How The Formosan Subterranean Termite Caused A Lasting Economic Catastrophe That Is Still Being Felt In New Orleans Today

Termites are one of the most economically significant group of insect pests in the United States where they inflict billions of dollars in property damage annually. The negative economic impact of termite infestations is not just felt by owners of infested homes. For example, destructive termite infestations have a negative financial effect on home-builders, real estate agents, bankers, mortgage companies, and home insurance companies.

Unsurprisingly, the widespread emergence of Formosan subterranean termites during the 1980s and 1990s in New Orleans triggered an economic crisis that still affects the city to this day. Also, Formosan termites are no longer limited to the southern coast of Louisiana, as pest control companies frequently encounter the pests in homes throughout the state.

Formosan termites cost taxpayers in Louisiana hundreds of millions of dollars annually due to the destruction that the pests inflict on infrastructure in the state. The termite pests eat away at creosote-treated railroad ties, telephone poles, underground cables, electric power lines and telephone lines, PVC pipes, and 90 percent of an old creosote-treated wooden saltwater dam in Lake Charles had to be replaced due to extensive Formosan termite damage.

Shortly after Formosan termites established a heavy presence in New Orleans, structural damage inflicted by the pests caused a house in the city to literally split in two, and a 17 year old apartment complex had to be demolished as a result of sustaining extensive Formosan termite damage. Several homes in New Orleans have been demolished due to Formosan termite infestations, resulting in loan defaults and an inability to secure additional loans for damage repairs.

Sadly, this is still occurring today in the city, as a 2016 house collapse in New Orleans was blamed on a long lasting Formosan termite infestation, and one year later, the destructive insect pests caused a building in Algiers to collapse. In order to prevent these abundant termite pests from infesting homes, annual property inspections and the application of termiticide barriers is necessary.

Have you had your home inspected for termites lately?



An Unearthed Formosan Termite Nest Was Found To Span An Acre And A Half Of Land After Aging Only 10 Years

Due to its widespread distribution in the US, the native eastern subterranean termite (EST) inflicts more annual property damage than any other termite species in the country. The invasive Formosan subterranean termite’s (FST) habitat, on the other hand, is largely limited to the Gulf Coast states, particularly eastern Texas, the entirety of Louisiana, and Florida.

Since the FST inhabits relatively small areas in the US, this species naturally does not cause as much annual property damage in the country as more widespread native species. However, the FST is easily the dominant termite in every local region where it can be found. For example, Louisiana is home to eight highly destructive termite species, but the non-native FST is easily the most devastating species throughout the state, especially in southern cities, like New Orleans, Lafayette and Baton Rouge.

Although figures vary, the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center states that FSTs cause 500 million dollars in property damage each year in Louisiana alone, and despite being absent from most states, FSTs cause at least 1 billion dollars in property damage each year nationwide.

The maximum size of an EST colony rarely exceeds 1 million individuals, but mature FST colonies contain ten times this amount, at least. In addition to their large colonies, FSTs outshine all other termites in the country by locating food more rapidly and tunneling through soil at higher speeds and over greater distances.

An unearthed network of foraging galleries surrounding one single FST nest in Louisiana was found to span 1.4 acres, and the total length of the galleries were measures at 1,900 feet. The depth of the foraging galleries generally varied between 5 and 117 cm below the ground, but some areas saw galleries dip as far as 3 meters. The primary nest was found 48 cm below the ground, and the nest itself was 53 cm wide and 48 cm high.

Have you ever become annoyed with FST swarming around your porch or indoor lights?


Louisiana Homes And Buildings That Have Not Been Pre-Treated For Subterranean Termite Pests Have An 80% To 100% Chance Of Becoming Infested

Nearly a dozen species of termite pest have been found in Louisiana, but eight economically significant species, including the invasive Formosan subterranean termite, maintain a permanent habitat in the state. While the Formosan is the most economically damaging termite species in Louisiana, the native eatern, dark southern and light southern subterranean termites also inflict a significant amount of property damage throughout the state. There exists an equal amount of destructive drywood and subterranean termite species in Louisiana, but the latter group is responsible for around 95 percent of all termite related property damage reported each year in the state.

The southeast sees the highest rate of termite related property destruction in the US, and much of this destruction occurs in Louisiana, particularly in New Orleans. However, perimeter termiticide treatments are popular in the southeast where they are highly effective at preventing subterranean termite infestations in homes and buildings. According to experts, 80 to 100 percent of southeastern homes that have not been treated with a termiticide or another type of effective barrier will become infested with termites at some point.

Subterranean termites are most active in humid and rainy regions where soil is particularly moist throughout the year. In addition to providing nourishment to subterranean termites, moist soil allows workers to forage over particularly long distances, making it likely for the pests to encounter timber-framed structures. The liberal application of termiticide solution applied beneath the ground surrounding a home prevent subterranean termites from accessing properties. Physical termite barriers are applied to properties far less often than termiticide barriers in the US, but several types of physical barriers, such as steel-mesh, and particle barriers are also highly effective non-chemical methods of preventative termite control.

While subterranean termites can chew through a variety of durable materials in order to reach wood, including concrete, the pests are not able to penetrate steel-mesh. Particle termite barriers may consist of sand, gravel or synthetic material that is applied beneath the ground surrounding homes. Subterranean termites cannot pass through these barriers due to their inability to negotiate the relatively large size of the particles.

Have you ever known someone who had a physical termite barrier applied to their property?

Can Formosan Subterranean Termite Swarmers Establish Infestations In Structures?

Of the more than 3,100 termite species that have been documented worldwide, the Formosan subterranean termite (FST) is the most widespread, as well as the most economically damaging species. The FST has established a thriving and invasive habitat throughout much of the southern half of the US, and while this species is tremendously destructive in Florida and Hawaii, Louisiana sees the greatest amount of annual FST related property destruction, especially in New Orleans.

This species is unique for establishing colonies that rapidly grow to contain more than ten million individual termites, and workers are able to travel more than 300 feet through soil where they are likely to encounter and infest timber-framed structures. In the vast majority of FST infestations, workers alone are responsible for both initiating infestations as well as eating away at structural lumber. However, reproductive alates of this species become a tremendous nuisance to homeowners during the spring and summer seasons when thousands swarm around outside light sources at dusk and during the evening hours.

The heaviest and most frequent FST swarms occur during May and June each year in Louisiana. FST colonies mature for a period of around 5 years before alates take flight, and although alates are a serious nuisance, they very rarely establish infestations in structural wood, unlike drywood termite alates. This is because FST, like native subterranean termites, require copious amounts of moisture from the ground soil in order to survive, but in rare cases, a pair of alates may initiate an infestation in damp structural wood, making it unnecessary for the pests to maintain contact with the ground soil. Infestations of this sort are known as “aerial infestations,” and they often occur on flat-roofed homes and buildings where pooled water provides more than enough moisture for maturing colonies.

Have you ever witnessed FST alates swarming around your indoor light sources?

How A Small Number Of Termites That Become Separated From A Colony Can Establish An Entirely New Colony Without The Reproductive Queen

To put it simply, subterranean termite colonies are comprised of a royal pair (queen and king), soldiers and workers. Mature colonies also produce reproductive swarmers (alates), which generally take flight during the spring and summer seasons in Louisiana. A single swarm is made up of thousands of male and female alates that attempt to locate a mate, as well as a proper nesting site where conditions are conducive to the growth of a new colony. The vast majority of alates perish before finding a mate, but a small number successfully breed and establish new colonies in the ground as queen and king.

The initial offspring produced by queens become workers, and they care for the queen and her offspring while also constructing the nest, which includes a compartment for the queen and king (royal chamber), as well as a nursery for developing offspring. The offspring that emerge from the queen’s eggs are known as “nymphs,” and the queen releases pheromones that trigger their growth into workers, soldiers or alates, depending on the needs of the colony. The process of nymph maturation is extremely complex, and research shows that environmental factors and intracolony grooming also play a part in determining how a nymph will mature.

While the queen is commonly recognized as the sole source of eggs, queens also emit pheromones that trigger the development of secondary reproductives (neonetics) in cases when additional workers and/or soldiers are greatly needed in a colony. For example, when a large number of colony members die or become separated from a nest, secondary reproductives can rapidly reproduce replacements in order to ensure colony survival. Research has shown that when a small number of workers and nymphs become separated from a parent colony, some of the nymphs automatically develop into secondary reproductives, allowing the lost termites to establish a new colony, and therefore, survive. This proves that environmental factors alone can determine how a nymph will develop.

Do you think that ant colonies have likely developed similar adaptations that allow them to survive unfavorable circumstances?




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