Formosan Subterranean Termites Still Pose A Serious Threat To Older Homes And Buildings In New Orleans

Dozens of subterranean, drywood and dampwood termite species inhabit the United States, and most of these species dwell in undisturbed habitats where they provide ecologically important services, such as breaking down organic waste and enhancing soil fertility. Unfortunately, several termite species in the US dwell in urban and suburban areas where they serve as pests of structural and cosmetic woodwork. A few subterranean termite species are responsible for inflicting the vast majority of termite-related structural damages that occur in the country. The total annual cost of repairing termite-damaged structures in the US exceeds five billion dollars, and at least one billion dollars in termite-related structural damages are reported in the state of Louisiana each year. The two most common and economically costly termite pest species in Louisiana are Reticulitermes flavipes and Coptotermes formosanus, but they are more commonly known as “eastern subterranean termites (EST)” and “Formosan subterranean termites (FST).”

The EST is the most economically costly termite pest in the US by far, and this species can be found in most US states. However, due to the widespread establishment of the invasive FST along the Gulf Coast, the EST has been displaced by the FST as the most destructive termite pest species in southern Louisiana. Unlike native subterranean termites, FSTs are able to establish aerial infestations that are completely disconnected from moist ground soil, and they infest a variety of both dead and living tree species. Tragically, up to one quarter of all oak trees in New Orleans are currently infested with FSTs, and historical structures in the city have been hit particularly hard by the exotic pests, as these structures were built long before termite-resistant building codes were established.

Many historical structures in New Orleans were saved from termite destruction during the 15 year long federal and state organized program to eradicate FSTs from New Orleans. This discontinued program, Operation Full Stop, managed to save numerous historical structures in Louisiana including the Cabildo where Jefferson signed the Louisiana purchase in 1803. Unfortunately, historically notable structures in the Big Easy are still threatened by FSTs today, as the 150 year old McDonogh Number 11 school may soon be demolished due to extensive termite damage. While multiple inspectors claim that the building can be salvaged, officials with Louisiana State University are pushing to have the building demolished in order to expand the campus. The building is currently propped up on steel stilts to prevent further termite damage while historical preservationists struggle with local authorities to save the structure.

Has a termite-ravaged home ever been demolished in your neighborhood?

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