Posts Tagged ‘Termites’

The Last Decade Has Seen Urban Populations Of Formosan Subterranean Termites Increase By 3,000% In Southern Louisiana

Several destructive termite species are known for infesting homes and buildings throughout Louisiana. Common termite pest species in the state include eastern subterranean termites, arid-land subterranean termites, and non-native powderpost drywood termites. The first species listed above causes more structural damage to homes annually than any other wood-infesting insect pest species on the continent. However, in Louisiana, the eastern subterranean termite is second to the invasive Formosan subterranean termite in terms of annual infestation rates and wood damage inflicted to homes.

Non-native Formosan subterranean termites (FST) are similar to other subterranean termite species when it comes to habitat and food preference. However, unlike most subterranean termite species, FST can establish aerial infestations in trees and other elevated wood sources. Native subterranean termite species in the US inhabit colonies located solely within ground-soil. Therefore, native subterranean termite infestations are largely limited to substructural wood components located around foundations and in crawl spaces where workers can make quick return trips to soil to hydrate as needed.

Obviously, workers in aerial FST nests cannot travel to the ground-soil to hydrate; instead, workers build enclosed nests that are designed to retain moisture. These nests are known as “carton” nests, and they are made from a mixture of soil, saliva, fecal matter, and chewed wood that hardens as it dries. Carton nests are also constructed in the ground-soil, and aerial carton nests can only be established around structural wood components that are sufficiently moist. Aerial nests are often located in wall voids and floor voids where moisture levels are consistently high.

While all termite species see reproductive swarmers (alates) establish colonies in new areas during certain times of year, the FST is the only subterranean termite species in the US that swarm around artificial lights in massive numbers during the nighttime hours. The presence of termite alates around street lights and porch lights indicate that colonies are nearby, and alates congregating around indoor lights could mean that an infestation has been established within a home.

The habitat range of FST in Louisiana has historically been limited to southern areas, particularly New Orleans, but today, these destructive insect pests have spread throughout the state. FST population numbers in Louisiana continue to grow, as the last decade has seen the number of FST colonies in the state increase by 3,000 percent. FST alates swarm each year during May and June in Louisiana.

Have you ever visually spotted an FST carton nest?




The Temperature And Relative Humidity That Formosan Subterranean Termites Require In Order To Infest Structural Wood

Termites are well known insect pests of structural wood, but few people are aware that the vast majority of termite species are not in the habit of feeding on woodwork. Around 3,000 termite species have been documented worldwide, and the vast majority of these species inhabit tropical regions where dense vegetation, frequent rainfall, humid air, and warm temperatures allow the insects to thrive. In fact, numerous scientific studies have shown that termites may be the primary decomposers of dead plant material in tropical regions.

Termites are ecologically essential components of rainforest ecosystems, as their feeding habits break down large pieces of plant debris, like fallen branches, logs, stumps, dead roots and sticks. Without termites, rainforest soil would lose its arability, and the world would quickly become uninhabitable to humans and most other animals. This is why the continents of South America and Africa alone are home to well over half of all documented termite species, while the temperate US is home to only 50 termite species. Despite the relatively low number of termite species in the US, billions of dollars in termite damage is inflicted to homes and buildings in the subtropical southeastern US annually, and Louisiana is one of the most affected states.

Just like tropical termite species, most of the termite species that infest structures in Louisiana require an abundance of moisture and year round warmth in order to thrive. Surprisingly, most termite pest species in Louisiana would not be able to survive as far north as the midwestern states. Louisiana homeowners should venture into their crawl spaces, attics, and other indoor areas in order to measure relative humidity levels, as doing so will help to prevent costly termite infestations.

The most common and destructive termite pest species throughout Louisiana is the Formosan subterranean termite, and they can inflict structural wood damage in environments where the relative humidity is as low as 55 percent. However, one thorough study showed that Formosan subterranean termites only feed on structural wood located in areas where the relative humidity of ambient air exceeds 70 percent and temperatures are between 77 and 85 degrees. However, 90 percent relative humidity and a constant temperature of 82 degrees provides Formosan subterranean termites with optimal feeding conditions.

Have you ever inspected you ever measured the relative humidity in your home for the purpose of termite control?

Formosan Subterranean Termite Swarmers

Formosan Subterranean Termite Swarmers Are Unique In That Their Indoor Presence Does Not Necessarily Indicate That An Infestation Has Been Established Within A Home

The three most common clues indicating that a home has become infested with subterranean termites include the presence of living or dead termite swarmers (alates) within a home, the presence of termite “shelter tubes” located vertically along the exterior foundation walls and/or within the crawl space, and of course, the presence of termite damage. Reproductive alates only emerge from mature colonies that have aged five to seven years. Therefore, in addition to indicating that an infestation has become established within a home, the presence of indoor alates also indicates that at least one subterranean termite colony has been inhabiting the home for several years.

The subterranean termite species that are most commonly found infesting homes throughout Louisiana include eastern, light southern, and most commonly of all, Formosan subterranean termites. While encountering subterranean termite alates within a home strongly indicates that the home is infested, it is possible to find a small number of Formosan subterranean termite alates within homes that are not infested. This is only because Formosan subterranean termite alates, unlike alates from all other subterranean termite species, are strongly attracted to artificial light sources, such as porch lights, street lights and indoor lights.

Massive swarms comprised of around 70,000 individual alates take flight from one single colony of Formosan subterranean termites shortly after dusk from April to July. Given the unusually large size of Formosan swarms, as well as the abundance of Formosan colonies within urban and suburban areas of Louisiana, it is not uncommon for numerous alates to fly into homes due to their attraction to artificial lights. This is especially true when only a few dozen Formosan alates are found around light fixtures indoors, but if more than 100 Formosan alates are found indoors, a termite inspection should be carried out as quickly as possible. Alates of the Formosan subterranean termite species can be recognized for their light brown body that is around half an inch in length, and their wings are covered in numerous hairs.

Have you ever discovered Formosan subterranean termite alates within your home?



Which Attributes Make Formosan Subterranean Termites The Most Destructive Insect Pests In The US

To say that one particular termite species is more or less “destructive” than any other termite species can be misleading. For example, one colony of invasive Formosan subterranean termites will damage wood more rapidly than one colony of native eastern subterranean termites. Despite this, experts claim that the eastern subterranean termite is the most destructive termite species in the US. This claim is true when considering that the eastern subterranean termite is the most widespread termite species in the country, and therefore, they cause the greatest amount of property destruction annually in the US. The Formosan subterranean termite’s habitat, on the other hand, does not extend far beyond the Gulf Coast states, so while Formosans may be the most “destructive” termite species, they are not the most “economically significant” termite species in the country. If Formosan subterranean termites were to become as widely distributed as eastern subterranean termites in the US, then Formosan termites would easily become the most destructive and economically significant termites in the country.

There are several factors that make Formosan subterranean termites a remarkably destructive termite species, the most significant of which is this species’ superior ability to spatially orient large colony networks and their habit of incorporating unrelated Formosan colonies into these networks in order to cover greater territory. Individual Formosan workers do not consume wood at a greater rate than eastern subterranean termite workers, but the former lives in colonies that contain between 2 and 10 million termites, while all other subterranean termite species in the US inhabit colonies that contain between 20,000 and 1 million termites. After a pair of reproductive swarmers (alates) of the Formosan species initiate a new colony, the colony gradually expands to cover an area of 50 square meters around the original nest. This species also accepts unrelated Formosans from other colonies as new nestmates, which not only expands their territory, but it also makes colonies more genetically diverse, which enhances their vigor as wood-destroying insect pests.

Do you believe that Formosan subterranean termite colonies are present on your property?


The Most To Least Destructive Drywood Termite Species In Louisiana

Kalotermes approximatus is a very common termite pest species found in the southeastern US. This native species is commonly known as the “dark southern drywood termite,” and as the “dark southeastern drywood termite.” The dark southern drywood termite is most abundant along the Gulf Coast and its distribution extends from Texas to North Carolina, but this species is particularly destructive in Houston, New Orleans, Mobile and Miami. The dark southern drywood termite is often compared to the light southern drywood termite (I. snyderi) in terms of pest behavior, but the latter is largely recognized as being a more common pest of homes than the former. According to a 2002 scientific survey of termite colonies throughout residential areas of Louisiana, the light southern drywood termite is a more common pest of homes than the dark southern drywood termite, but the latter infests homes throughout the entire state, while the former is largely limited to homes in the southern half of the state. The two most economically significant drywood termite pest species in Louisiana are light southern drywood termites and invasive powderpost termites (C. brevis).

The western drywood termite (I. minor) is native to the southwest US where it is the most destructive drywood termite species in the region. This species was introduced into Louisiana around two to three decades ago, and since then, the western drywood termite has been responsible for a growing number of structural infestations in the state. The researchers who carried out the above mentioned 2002 termite survey in Louisiana were surprised to find that western drywood termite colonies outnumbered those of the native dark southern drywood termite. Seasonal mating swarms of western drywood termites emerge during the day from April to June in Louisiana, but swarms often emerge within infested structures during the winter season. The dark southern drywood termite swarms during the spring and early summer, and to a lesser extent during the fall. Powderpost and light southern drywood termites are known for swarming as early as spring and as late as fall.

Has a swarm of drywood termites ever emerged within your home, or on your property?




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