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Posts Tagged ‘Termites’

Why Did It Take Local Leaders And Urban Entomologists Decades To Gain Adequate Control Over The Invasive Formosan Subterranean Termite In New Orleans?

Termites are the most economically costly pests of homes and buildings in the US, as they inflict billions of dollars in structural wood damage each year in the country. The most destructive termite pest in the country is easily the eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes), as this species is far more widespread than all other termite pest species in the US. Louisiana is one of the very few, or possibly the only US state where most termite-related destruction is committed by an invasive termite species. This invasive termite pest is commonly known as the Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formanosus), and it emerged in large numbers in New Orleans during the early 1980s. Since then, the Formosan subterranean termite has devastated structures and oak trees in New Orleans, and they have spread to the rest of the state. Considering that the FST was first discovered in New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast during the 1960s, many people wonder why local leaders, urban entomologists and pest control professionals were not better prepared to manage this notably destructive pest once they emerged in New Orleans 20 years later.

Although the FST was first discovered in the US during the mid-1960s when colonies were recovered near shipping ports in Houston, Galveston and New Orleans, experts agree that the termite pests arrived in the country 20 years earlier within infested crates, shipping materials and wooden pallets that were unloaded from ships returning from Asia at the end of World War Two. These infested wooden materials quickly found their way into landfills where they were buried deep beneath the ground. The moist landfill soil allowed FSTs to proliferate, but it likely took the pests several years to travel from urban landfills to urban New Orleans. While reproductive swarmers (alates) from FST colonies would have been noticed before colonies arrived in New Orleans, experts likely mistook large FST alates for similar looking alates of native drywood termite species. Shortly after FST pests became noticeably prevalent in New Orleans, the leading termiticide at the time, chlordane, was discontinued by the EPA, which allowed FSTs to wreak even more havoc during the 1980s. By the 1990s, FST infestations were causing 300 million dollars in damages annually in New Orleans alone. Due to years of FST research conducted in New Orleans, pest control professionals eventually managed to gain an adequate degree of control over FST pest activity in the city.

Have you ever witnessed a swarm of Formosan subterranean termites emerge from a nest?



Which Group Of Termite Pests In The US Are Absent From Louisiana, And Which Termite Pest Species In The State Originate From Other Countries?

There are three types of termites in the US, and each one differs in habitat and foraging requirements. These termite groups are known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites, and multiple species from each group are known for infesting structural woodwork in homes and buildings. Dampwood termite species can only be found in the western states and Florida, and due to their pronounced reliance on high-moisture conditions, they only infest woods that have decayed from excessive water absorption. The relatively small number of dampwood termite structural infestations that occur in the US often see nymphs and psueogrates (analogous to subterranean termite workers) attack unpainted, unvarnished, and sometimes, unprocessed wood, but they may inflict damage to the hardwood flooring in old homes in advanced infestation cases. Dampwood termites rarely establish economically costly infestations, and they cannot be found in Louisiana.

Many species of drywood termite have been documented in the US, and their habitat is limited solely to the southern states. A total of four drywood termite pest species attack homes and buildings in Louisiana, two of which are not native to the state. These species are commonly known as West Indian drywood powderpost termites (Cryptotermes brevis) and the western drywood termite (Incisitermes minor), and these two species may be the most destructive drywood termite pests in Louisiana. The powderpost termite has established an invasive habitat in tropical areas all over the globe, and it is the most widespread drywood termite species in the world.

Due to genetic changes resulting from this species’ worldwide establishment, determining its native origin is difficult, but most experts agree that powderpost termites are native to the neotropics. Interestingly, and unlike other drywood termite pest species, powderpost termites are never found infesting wood in the natural environment; instead, colonies are found solely in structural wood, wood furniture, and other wood items that are frequently shipped over long distances. The western drywood termite is native to the southwestern US, and it’s the most economically costly drywood termite pest in the country. This species was first discovered in Louisiana in 1999 when an infested tree branch was recovered from Louis Armstrong Park. Shortly after this branch was found, an extensive western drywood termite infestation was found spanning multiple floors in the nearby Perseverance Hall building.

Can you recognize the difference between drywood termite swarmers and subterranean termite swarmers?

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?





The Two Most Destructive Drywood Termite Pests In Louisiana Are Non-Native Species That Can Infest Dry Lumber

Louisiana is home to at least nine termite pest species that are known for damaging woodwork, resulting in costly damage. The most economically significant termite pests in Louisiana, and the rest of the US, are subterranean termites, particularly the invasive Formosan subterranean termite and the native eastern subterranean termite. In addition to the five subterranean termite pest species found in Louisiana, the state is also home to the most destructive drywood termite pest species in the country. These two species, Incisitermes minor and Cryptotermes brevis, are both non-native termite species in Louisiana, and the latter is frequently categorized as an invasive pest.  I. minor and C. brevis are more commonly known as “western drywood termites” and “west Indian powderpost drywood termites,” respectively. Unlike subterranean termites, these two drywood termite pest species are capable of infesting sound dry lumber and single wood items, mainly furniture.

The west Indian powderpost drywood termite (WIPDT) is native to the Carribean, and they have been common pests of woodwork in the Gulf Coast states for decades. This species is unique in that their colonies cannot be found in the natural environment in its non-native North American range, and they only infest wooden furniture and other wooden items. Western drywood termite colonies are also frequently found excavating cavities within wooden furniture, but they are common pests of structural wood within homes as well. Due to their habit of infesting wood furniture and other movable items, these two termite pests have a rich history of spreading to new regions well outside of their native range, which is why they both establish infestations in all areas of Louisiana.

Unlike the WIPDT, the western drywood termite is often found infesting dead portions of numerous tree species, and its well known to be the most destructive drywood termite pest in the US. The western drywood termite was first discovered in Louisiana back in 1998 when a large colony was recovered from a fallen tree branch in Louis Armstrong Park not far from the French Quarter. Shortly after this discovery, an inspection of a structure located in the park, Perseverance Hall, turned up an extensive western drywood termite infestation on the first and second floors. Two years later, researchers were shocked to find that the western drywood termite had already established a destructive presence throughout the entire state. Today, the western drywood termite continues to inflict significant structural damage in Louisiana every year.

Have you ever suspected that your home had become infested with drywood termites?

As Termites Swarm In New Orleans, Experts Claim That The City May Have The Worst Formosan Subterranean Termite Problem In The World

Subterranean termites are well known for being the most destructive group of insect pests in the world, and Louisiana is home to four subterranean termite pest species, each one of which inflicts considerable property damage in the state. The eastern subterranean termite is the most damaging species of its kind in the US due to its widespread habitat distribution, and while this species is a serious problem in Louisiana, it’s not nearly as problematic as the invasive subterranean termite species in the state. Unlike the eastern subterranean termite, the Formosan subterranean termite can only be found in the southernmost states, but most of the structural damage inflicted by this species occurs along the Gulf Coast, most notably in New Orleans.

Formosan subterranean termites (FST) swarm every year around Mother’s Day in order to establish new colonies, but this year FST swarms emerged a bit earlier than usual in Louisiana. May 5th saw the first FST swarms to occur in a major urban area this year. Slidell saw the first swarm, followed by Lakeview, then Metairie, and finally, New Orleans. The winged termites (alates) gravitated toward street lights, porch lights, and even indoor lights, prompting a large number of residents in all four cities to contact local pest control professionals and university extension officials with questions and concerns about the destructive pests.

Many experts in the state are already predicting a termite-heavy season in Louisiana this year based on the size of the FST swarms that occurred throughout the southern half of the state a few days ago. In fact, pest control professionals are saying that no city in the world is more heavily affected by FSTs than New Orleans, which sees around one billion dollars in FST damage annually. Luckily, residents do not need to be seriously concerned with the swarms unless they occur within their homes, but it is possible for alates to establish new colonies in excessively moist structural lumber. However, most FST infestations start when workers infest homes from the ground up. Considering the alarming nature of this year’s FST swarming season, residents of Louisiana may want to contact a pest control professional to have a termite inspection carried out on their property.

Have FST swarms been spotted near your home yet this year?

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