Have Area-Wide Efforts To Control Formosan Subterranean Termites Been Successful In New Orleans?

It is not known for sure how the Formosan subterranean termite was initially transported into the US, or by what means, but the most common theory states that the invasive pests arrived in the country on one or more military vessels toward the end of World War 2. The Formosan termite was first documented in Louisiana back in 1966, and one year later, the species was found in New Orleans. However, the Formosan termite did not become a major pest in Louisiana until large colonies became apparent in New Orleans during the 1980s. The French Quarter has seen the highest degree of Formosan termite damage due to the area’s outdated structural style, which allows Formosans to spread from structure-to-structure with ease. By the 1990s, Formosan termite damage had caused numerous buildings to collapse, and experts estimated that the cost of damage repair and control costs for this invasive pest to be around 1 billion dollars annually. In response to the massive destruction caused by Formosan termites during this time, both federal and state agencies conducted area-wide Formosan termite management programs that proved effective despite this species’ continued status as the most destructive termite species in the state.

Unlike native subterranean termites in Louisiana, Formosan subterranean termites swarm at night and are attracted to artificial light sources, like street lights and porch lights. During the early to mid 1990s, the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board received nearly 30 calls per swarming season from residents of the upper Pontalba Apartments near Jackson Square. Residents had made these calls to complain about nuisance Formosan swarms, and one resident even took to sleeping within a small tent each night during swarming season in order to avoid having swarmers (alates) fall on him from his ceiling while he slept at night. The next two decades saw multiple agencies set up numerous non-repellent termiticide stations, bait traps and sticky traps around a 15 square foot block within the French Quarter. By the time this area-wide Formosan termite control program concluded around 2010, the number of residential complaints decreased by 50 percent, and infestation rates decreased by more than 50 percent, and this included properties outside of the treatment area. Today, Formosan subterranean termites continue to cause significant economic damage in New Orleans, but the problem would be immeasurably worse had area-wide Formosan termite control programs never been enacted.

Have you ever been pestered by Formosan subterranean termite swarms?

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