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The Emergence Of The Formosan Subterranean Termite Saw Dozens Of New Orleans School Buildings Succumb To Destructive Infestations

The Formosan subterranean termite was largely a non-issue within New Orleans until the early 1980s, and it was around this time when public schools in the city became infested with the extremely destructive pests. While homes and businesses all over the city were becoming infested with the alien pests, public schools in the city were found to contain the most extensive termite infestations that any pest controller in America had ever seen. In addition to the infestations, it was also found that dozens of schools had already sustained massive amounts of destruction. This destruction occurred rapidly, and it was clear that the typical termite control program in the city’s public schools was no longer working. In order to make all the schools safe to inhabit, officials planned to renovate and rebuild the heavily damaged and structurally outdated school buildings with termite-resistant construction materials. However, the degree of termite damage that the school buildings sustained was unprecedented, and the renovation costs were unaffordable. As you can imagine, this situation led to a city-wide crisis.

Back in 1997, the pest control manager for the New Orleans school system claimed that “dozens of schools were in danger of being lost” due to the damaging infestations. The seemingly sudden termite damage occurred due to several factors. For one thing, nearly all of the public schools in the city were constructed long before building codes demanded the inclusion of termite-resistant features. Many of the school buildings were constructed with lumber that made ground contact, allowing subterranean termites easy access to structural wood from their soil habitat. Thirsty Formosan termites were attracted to the moisture buildup and plumbing leaks that were found in every infested building. Previously installed termiticide barriers around the schools prevented native termite infestations, but not Formosans, as Formosans are able to establish nests in high places, like the top floor of a building and atop trees. For example, at Warren Easton High School Formosan subterranean termites were found eating the floor-joist on the building’s top floor. Repairing this damage cost taxpayers 250,000 dollars. In order to correct the situation, officials decided to make use of poison bait to stop the Formosan scourge, but the bait sites could not be installed until the buildings were renovated to meet modern anti-termite building codes, and until all high-moisture conditions were eliminated.

Have you ever suspected a building that you were in was infested with termites?

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