How Have Formosan Subterranean Termites Traveled To Regions Well Outside Of Their Habitat Range?

If you live in the United States, especially the southeast, then there is a good chance that you have heard of the termite species commonly known as Formosan subterranean termites. These termites are unique in how tremendously damaging they are to timber-framed homes and other structures. In fact, these termites are considered by experts to be the most damaging species of termite in existence. Formosan termites are also well known to people living in other countries around the world, especially China where the termites are native. Since the southeast was hit with several hurricanes this year, there has been much talk in the media about how hurricanes seem to increase the number of homes infested with termites. It has been theorized that hurricanes and the flood waters that result literally wash termites into homes. Now that Hurricane Florence has subsided, and the resultant floodwaters are receding, cleanup crews are finding numerous structures that have become infested with Formosan subterranean termites. Not only do these findings confirm that hurricanes can, indeed, result in an increase in termite infestations, but hurricanes are causing many more types of termite-related issues that had not been considered before.

While it would seem that termites would be unable to survive hurricanes and floods, the fact is that termites can survive underwater for as long as 20 hours. Termites can drown if floodwaters persist for days, but most survive. After all, subterranean termites can survive 30 feet below the ground for long periods. Flood waters can literally carry Formosan termites to new locations where they had not existed before, and the plant debris that is abundant in flood waters provides termites with plenty of sustenance. Formosan termites that infest trees can survive on tree debris floating in floodwaters. Not only this, but after hurricanes and floods, cleanup workers collect massive amounts of wood debris from structures that are often saved and transported for second-hand use in other states. Since this wood debris is piled up, it does not take long for Formosan termites to spread to the entire pile. This is especially true when it comes to Formosans, as their colonies contain tens of millions of individual termites that reproduce rapidly. For example, several years ago, wood that had been infested with Formosans were transported to other states to be used as railroad ties. This practice led to the establishment of Formosans in Atlanta, where they had never been found before. Also, in Louisiana, where Formosans are at their most abundant, local sawmills had become infested. These sawmills produced sawdust-waste that people used for mulch. Of course, this also spread the insects beyond their habitat range. Due to the risk of transporting termite-infested wood after hurricanes and floods, experts are recommending that all wood debris collected should be heat treated before being transported to other states.

Do you think that people are not inclined to consider termite issues after hurricanes and floods given the amount of problems that they already face after floods and hurricanes?

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