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Posts Tagged ‘Termite Inspection’

Officials Warn Residents About This Season’s Heavy Termite Population

Every year, urban entomologists and pest control professionals urge Louisiana homeowners to take measures to prevent termites from infesting their property before swarms emerge during the spring season. This year’s early arrival of multiple Formosan subterranean termite swarms in Metairie, Slidell, Lakeview, and New Orleans is indicative of a termite-heavy summer season.

Last April, the Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner, Mike Strain, warned residents about the likelihood of high termite pest activity in the coming weeks. According to Strain, homeowners should spend their downtime in quarantine inspecting their home for termite damage, as well as for conditions that are conducive to termite pest activity. Residents have been heeding Strain’s advice, and professional termite inspection services have been common this spring in southern Louisiana despite the COVID lockdown.

Termite swarmers are known as “alates,” and Formosan alates emerge from mature colonies around Mother’s Day every year in order to establish new colonies. Alates of many termite pest species in Louisiana emerge during the spring, but Formosan swarms are unique for being particularly large and common in urban centers. Formosan alates take flight in humid, windless, and 90 degree conditions during and after dusk, and most swarms occur shortly after rainfall.

Formosan alates have a strong attraction to artificial lighting, and this attraction prompts massive swarms to gravitate around street lights, porch lights, and even indoor lights. This is one of several reasons as to why Formosan subterranean termite infestation rates are epidemic in urban areas where the pests are found, most notably in New Orleans.

Luckily for homeowners, the vast majority of alates in a swarm die before establishing a new colony, but the very few alates that manage to mate in a shallow ground burrow typically survive to become the queen and king of a new colony. Since alates are weak flyers, most swarms fail to travel more than 300 yards away from the colony in which they emerged.

While alates of most subterranean termite species almost always establish new colonies within moist ground soil, Formosan alates are unique for frequently initiating colonies in moist structural wood located high above the ground. Many experts agree that New Orleans is more heavily affected by Formosan subterranean termite pest activity than any other city in the world, and their non-native habitat in the southern US can never be eradicated. At least one professional termite inspection should be carried out on all Louisiana properties at least once per year.

Do you have a professional termite inspection carried out on your property each year?

 

 

Pinpointing Termite Infested Structural Wood

Considering that Louisiana is home to nine termite pest species that are known to infest structural wood, including the tremendously destructive invasive Formosan subterranean termite, all homes in the state should undergo an annual termite inspection by a licensed pest control professional. It is also a good idea for homeowners to learn how to recognize the common signs of a termite infestation so that they may conduct their own amatuer inspections once every three months.

Homeowners should look for vertical mud tubes along foundation walls and within crawl spaces to determine if subterranean termites have accessed substructural wood. Attics should be inspected for the presence of sawdust or “frass” that drywood termites eject from infested wood members. While a professional inspection is the best way of determining whether or not a home is infested or is likely to become infested with termites, it should be known that as much as 45 percent of a home’s interior space may be inaccessible to inspectors. Several detection methods that allow inspectors to check for termite activity behind walls and in other inaccessible indoor spaces have been introduced and tested for efficacy over the years. Some of these detection methods have become standard, while others remain obscure.

Many pest control professionals use acoustic emission detectors to amplify the sounds that termites make as they excavate wood within inaccessible spaces. Devices that detect the methane gas emitted by termites have also been developed, but the efficacy of these odor detectors are highly variable. Much like odor detectors, trained dogs have been used to sniff out termite infested areas within homes. One study that tested trained beagles for their ability to accurately detect termite-infested wood found that they almost never fail to do so, but false positives were common. Despite this, pest control firms have been using trained dogs to pinpoint the location of termite-infested wood since the 1970s. For the most part, however, the use of dogs for pest control purposes is impractical due to the cost of sheltering, feeding and training the animals.

Have you ever taken note of the devices pest control professionals use to detect termite infestations?

 

 

 

Which Termite Species In Louisiana Are Known For Establishing Infestations Within Furniture?

Termites are the most significant insect pests of homes and buildings throughout Louisiana, particularly in New Orleans and other coastal cities where the uniquely destructive and invasive Formosan subterranean termite species is most prevalent. While this exotic termite species may be the most destructive pest of its kind in Louisiana, it is certainly not the only one, as a total of nine termite pest species can be found in the state. Of these nine termite pests, five species are subterranean termites that live in colonies located below the ground, while the other four are drywood termite species that inhabit colonies contained entirely with single wood items located above the ground.

Subterranean termites establish colony nesting sites in moist soil only, and exposure to the dry outside air will cause specimens to rapidly dry up and die. Due to their ground soil habitat, foraging workers from subterranean termite colonies only infest moist substructural wood sources from the ground up. Since drywood termites literally inhabit their food source, they have no need for foraging workers, but just like subterranean termites, drywood termites establish new colonies by means of annual mating swarms.

Mating swarms emerge from existing colonies for a month or two every year, and they are made up of winged reproductive termites known as “alates.” Most alates die before mating, but the very few that survive long enough to mate usually go on to become the queen and king of a new colony. Due to their dependence on moist soil and wood, Subterranean termite alates almost always establish new colonies in soil, but drywood termite alates always establish new colonies in wood items. In other words, foraging workers establish subterranean termite infestations in moist substructural wood, while winged alates establish drywood termite infestations within a variety of either moist or dry wood sources.

Formosan subterranean termites are an exception, as they are the only subterranean termites capable of establishing aerial infestations that are not in contact with moist ground soil. These elevated infestations are contained within carton nests that work well to retain enough moisture to meet the hydration needs of a Formosan subterranean termite colony. Since drywood termites see alates initiate infestations in dry wood sources while airborne, they can infest just about any wood source, including furniture. Drywood and Formosan termite infestations are often found within furniture items shipped to geographic locations well outside of their range. In Louisiana, the drywood termites that are found infesting furniture on occasion include western drywood termites, west Indian powderpost drywood termites, and southeastern drywood termites.

Have you ever owned a furniture item that became infested with drywood or Formosan subterranean termites?

 

 

Are Termite Infestations Ever Found In The Wood Components Of Boats That Are Located Far Away From Land?

Louisiana is home to a relatively high number of termite species, a sizable minority of which are pests that infest woodwork. At least nine termite pest species inhabit Louisiana, four of which are drywood termite species, while the other five are subterranean termite species. With the exception of both the West Indian powderpost and the southeastern drywood termite species in the south, all of these termite pests can be found throughout Louisiana. However, termite pest species are most concentrated near the coast where frequent rainfall, wet landscapes, and high humidity provide the wood-eating pests with an ideal habitat that allows them to thrive year round. The most economically costly termite pest species in Louisiana is the invasive Formosan subterranean termite, which was first discovered in the state during the mid 20th century. It was not until the late 1970s that these highly destructive pests emerged in massive numbers throughout the French Quarter, and today, this species is responsible for well over half a billion dollars in property damage annually in Louisiana alone.

Drywood termites live in colonies that are entirely contained with single pieces of wood, such as logs, fallen branches, stumps, and occasionally, structural wood in homes as well as wooden furniture and other movable wood items. Since drywood termites live entirely within single wood items, their colonies are quite small, as they grow to contain a few thousand individuals at maturity, while subterranean termite colonies that are located below the ground grow to contain between 20,000 to as many as two million individuals at maturity. Amazingly, mature Formosan subterranean termite colonies have a whopping ten million individuals. Because of this, a Formosan colony can eat away at wood at a much faster rate than a native subterranean termite colony. Also, unlike native subterranean termites, Foromosans frequently establish aerial nests in attics and other high points where they do not maintain ground contact. While subterranean termite colonies see workers invade homes from the ground up, swarming alates that emerge from Formosan colonies can establish aerial colonies from the air. Although rare, Formosan alates sometimes fly short distances off the Louisiana coast where they establish infestations in boats, piers, and harbors. Not long ago, a Formosan infestation was discovered on a boat that had not been on land for decades. The boat was ultimately fumigated at sea, which was probably one of the most difficult structural fumigations ever carried out.

Have you ever found a Formosan subterranean termite nest in a tree?

Outdated And Modern Construction Practices That Make Homes Vulnerable To Subterranean Termite Infestations

Of all cities in the US, New Orleans sees the greatest amount of annual structural damage inflicted by Formosan subterranean termites. This is partly due to the prevalence of old oak trees lining residential streets in the French Quarter, which Formosans readily infest. Half of all oak trees in the French quarter have sustained damage from these ravenous pests, but it is the prevalence of centuries old structures that make the French Quarter the primary hotspot for Formosan subterranean termite pest activity in the US.

Older structures are particularly vulnerable to subterranean termite damage because they were constructed long before termite-resistant construction practices became the norm in the country. Modern building codes require the lowest structural lumber components in homes and buildings to be elevated several inches above the ground in order to restrict termite access, but French Quarter structures lack this design feature. Naturally, this makes subterranean termite infestations unusually common in New Orleans where large urban centers are made up almost exclusively of structures that were built well over a century ago.

Today, stucco and brick veneer exteriors often penetrate ground soil, which allows subterranean termites to tunnel into homes unnoticed. Most subterranean termite infestations are first noticed by the presence of mud tunnels that the pests build on the exterior walls of cement and brick masonry foundations. However, homes that are covered in stucco and brick veneer coating hide termite mud tunnels when they occur. Because of this, subterranean termite infestations in stucco and brick veneer homes are not often noticed until major structural damage has been inflicted. It is also common to pile gravel or wood mulch against the exterior foundation walls of homes, but this practice causes moisture build-up, which attracts subterranean termites. While excessive amounts of wood mulch should not be piled around homes for termite control purposes, gravel prevents moisture from escaping from soil, and therefore, homes surrounded by gravel are vulnerable to termite infestations.

Is your home surrounded by excessive amounts of gravel or mulch?

 

 

 

 

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