A Drywood Termite Species That Devastates Homes In The Southwest Has Recently Been Found In Louisiana For The First Time

Incisitermes minor is considered by experts to be one of the five most destructive and economically significant termite species in the United States. To be more specific, I. minor, or the western drywood termite, as it is more commonly known, is the only drywood termite species in the country that is considered an economically important pest of structures. Each of the four additional primary termite pests in the country are subterranean termite species. Although western drywood termites inflict hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage in the US every year, their habitat distribution is largely limited to the southwest US. However, these termites are well known for infesting furniture and lumber that is shipped to other regions in the country, which likely explains why western drywood termite infestations are occasionally found well outside of their native habitat.

Due to being uniquely adapted to thriving within exceptionally hot and dry desert conditions, it was long thought that western drywood termites could not survive wet and humid subtropical conditions unless their colonies remained solely within structural wood. However, back in June of 1998, soldiers, workers, and swarming alates of the western drywood termite species were found infesting a dead tree branch in New Orleans. This finding marked the first time in which western drywood termites were found alive and well in a natural subtropical setting, indicating that they can survive and potentially establish a non-endemic habitat in the humid southeast.

Considering the western drywood termite species’ abundance in the southwest, it is not surprising that the outdoor specimens found in New Orleans in 1998 were taken from the branch of an Arizona ash tree that had been planted in Louis Armstrong Park. However, it is not known if the termites had established an infestation in the tree before or after it was planted in the park. Shortly after the specimens were recovered from the tree branch, an inspection of Perseverance Hall, which is located in the park, revealed an extensive western drywood termite infestation on the first and second floors. Since their discovery in the park, the western drywood termite population in New Orleans has grown considerably larger, and the species has spread to other metropolitan areas in Louisiana.

Have you ever heard of western drywood termites infesting homes in your area?

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