Formosan termites may not be able to tolerate the relatively dry and temperate climate that exists beyond America’s most southeastern states, but these termites are far more destructive than the widely distributed eastern subterranean termites. Unlike eastern subterranean termites, which live in colonies that contain around 50,000 individual termites, Formosan subterranean termite colonies can contain several million individual termites. Formosan termites thrive in balmy, wet and humid conditions, which is why they are particularly problematic in the city of New Orleans. Formosan termites were first discovered in New Orleans during the 1960s, but they did not become major pests to structures until a decade or so later. By the 1990s, residents of New Orleans had, sadly, become used to Formosan termites destroying some of the city’s more notable historical buildings, and modern residential homes were also under constant threat from the destructive insects. Despite being familiar with the destructive impact that Formosan termites had on homes, residents of 1990s New Orleans were just becoming aware of how the termites had been destroying the city’s beloved trees.
One of the most notable events that helped to catalyze public awareness concerning the widespread devastation to trees in the city occurred in the summer of 1996, when a pest control professional visited a house that had been infested with termites. While inspecting the home, the pest control operator heard a loud crash outside. Once the operator looked outside to find the source of the loud crash, he noticed that one of the city’s many treasured oak trees had fallen apart, causing a large branch to land on his company van. While inspecting the damage, it became clear that the pest control company’s van had been rendered inoperable, but the fractured tree appeared to be undamaged. Later on, a more thorough inspection of the damage revealed that the oak tree had been hollowed out by Formosan termites. This discovery came as a bit of a surprise to both the city’s pest control professionals and the general public, as no termite species in America had been known to consume seemingly healthy trees in such a thorough manner. Also, residents of New Orlean’s had no way of knowing that the city’s trees had fallen victim to extensive and long-running termite infestations, as Formosan termites tunnel through the internal parts of a tree by first accessing the routes. This makes Formosan termite infestations in trees invisible, until they fall over of course.
Before the well publicized incident involving the damaged pest control van occurred in 1996, the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 brought the extent of Formosan termite damage to New Orlean’s trees to public attention for the first time. Experts found that a whopping 60 percent of the oak trees brought down by hurricane winds had already been weakened by termite infestations. The amount of termite damaged trees that had been found following the hurricane shocked the people of New Orleans who had not been aware of the existence of termites that infest trees. In between the 90s and today, several studies have confirmed that Formosan termite activity contributes to tree-loss during hurricanes. Following the hurricane in 1992 and the “van incident” in 1996, the USDA initiated an Formosan termite eradication program within New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1998. This program cost taxpayers 70 million dollars and lasted for 13 years.
Have you seen first hand evidence of the degree of tree damage and destruction caused by Formosan subterranean termites in New Orleans?
Tags: New Orleans Termite Control, Termite Control, Termites