How Did The Invasive West Indian Powderpost Termite Wind Up In Louisiana?

Cryptotermes brevis is the most widely distributed invasive termite species in the world, as this species has been introduced into more non-native regions around the world than any other invasive termite species, including the highly destructive Formosan subterranean termite. C. brevis is commonly known as the “West Indian powderpost termite,” or the “West Indian drywood termite,” and it has established an invasive population in the Gulf Coast states. This invasive drywood termite species generally inhabits only the southernmost areas of the Gulf Coast states, but in Louisiana, West Indian powderpost termites have been found infesting structures located farther north than Shreveport. According to a three year study that mapped out termite infestations by throughout Louisiana, the western drywood termite and the West Indian powderpost termite are the two most economically significant and destructive drywood termite species out of the four that can be found in the state. The West Indian drywood termite commonly infests structural wood and furniture, and their seasonal mating flights occur during late June and July at around dusk.

There is no telling how long the West Indian drywood termite species has been inhabiting Louisiana, but many experts believe that the species was first introduced into the US at a port in Florida. Specimens were found in Jamaica back in 1853, but experts do not believe that the species is native to the Carribean, and the true origin of this species remains unknown. The most common theory is that this species arrived in the New World on wooden ships back in the 17th century, but this has not been confirmed. The West Indian powderpost termite infests wood almost solely within human dwellings. In fact, only two records exist of this species being found in wood in the natural habitat. This species feeds on the sapwood and heartwood of both softwoods and hardwoods, and, unlike many termite species, they prefer sound dry wood with a low-moisture content. This is why West Indian powderpost termite colonies are often found infesting structural wood in new homes. These termites can establish multiple colony nesting sites within a structure, making whole-structure fumigation the most reliable method of eradicating infestations. The total annual cost of controlling West Indian powderpost termites in the US amounts to 120 million dollars, and these termites are particularly common in New Orleans.

Have you, or anyone you know, ever experienced a drywood termite infestation?


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