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The National Park Service Is Using Mahogany As A Termite Resistant Lumber For The Restoration Of A Historical Structure

There exists several antiquated structures in the United States that are universally recognized by people all over the world as being historically notable. Such structures include the White House, the Alamo, and of course, John Wayne’s birth home in Winterset, Iowa. Well, maybe the last one is only notable to fans of western movies, but in any case, there exists around 80,000 properties listed as National Historic Landmarks in the United States and its territories. Obviously, the vast majority of these landmarks are not generally well known. But even the most obscure historic structures can mean a lot to residents who live in the towns where they are located. For example, the unincorporated territory of the US Virgin Islands is home to a structure known as the Old Scale House. This house is over 160 years old and is located within the town of Christiansted in St. Croix. This house has long been considered the pride of the town by residents in the area, but unfortunately, the house has come under serious attack from drywood termites.

In order to renovate the house to make it termite-proof, the US National Park Service is having termite damaged wood replaced with naturally termite-resistant mahogany wood. According to the expert renovators working on the project, this wood will allow the house to withstand termite attacks and other forms of damage for at least 100 years. The Scale House was built in 1856, and residents of Christiansted are eager for Gary Zbel and his team with the National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) to begin renovations on the structure. Zbel is specially trained by the US Government to restore old structures to their original glory, and he has already renovated more than a dozen other historical structures, including parts of the White House.

The first step in the renovation process will entail the replacement of drywood termite damage to the house’s second floor. Zbel is using mahogany wood shipped from South America in order to replace parts of the house’s roof, beams and paneling. Mahogany is being chosen due to its immunity to termite attacks and mold. The last renovation during the 1970s saw builders using cheap wood that is vulnerable to termite attack, but the mahogany, according to Zbel, will allow the house to stand for, at least, another century. The cost of the house’s restoration is happily being paid for by the town’s taxpayers.

Have you ever been the first person to notice termite damage to a home or building?

 

 

01

Which Termites Are The Most Successful Invaders Of Foreign Regions?

In the United States, the eastern subterranean termite is responsible for the greatest amount of termite destruction to manmade structures. On its own, this termite species may not be as destructive as some invasive species that exist in the US, but the eastern subterranean termite has the widest habitat distribution, making virtually every region of the US vulnerable to their attacks. Invasive termite species in the US, like Formosan and Asian subterranean termites, live within colonies that contain millions of individual termites, far more than the 50,000 or less that exist within eastern subterranean termite colonies. Luckily, invasive species are limited to the southeastern states, making them responsible for a relatively small proportion of total termite destruction in the US. For example, the Asian subterranean termite is regarded as the most destructive termite species in the world along with the Formosan species, but this species has not advanced beyond southern Florida. However, this is not the case in many other countries, particularly tropical countries, where invasive termites cause far more destruction than native species. This is why the most destructive termite species to manmade structures are usually the very same species that are the most adaptable to non-native regions. So which group of termites is most likely to establish an invasive presence in non-native regions?

So far researchers have documented around three thousand termite species, and of all these species, only 104 are considered significant pests. Twenty three of these pests belong to the Coptotermes (Rhinotermitidae) genus, which includes the two most destructive termite species in the world, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites. Traditionally, experts have considered termites belonging to the Coptotermes species to be the most likely of all termite species to establish an invasive presence in non-native countries. But this claim is currently being challenged by many termite researchers who believe that only Formosan and Asian subterranean termites have the adaptive ability to establish invasive populations all over the world. When invasive termites are discovered and described by experts in other countries, they are sometimes described as new Coptotermes species when they are really either Formosan or Asian subterranean species. Also, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites are referred to by many names in a variety of countries, and not all these names are known to termite researchers. For example, several recently discovered invasive species in India and Madagascar may all be Asian subterranean termites, but these termites are believed to be separate Coptotermes species solely because they are known by different names in different regions. Therefore, the claim that most termite species belonging to the Coptotermes genus are inherently well adapted to foreign territories may be false, but this has yet to be fully substantiated.

Do you live in a region of the US where invasive termites exist?

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Termites Have Nearly Destroyed A 5 Million Dollar Structure Just One Year After Its Completion

Termites species are far more diverse and abundant in South America than they are in North America. This is due to South America’s tropical environment, which is more hospitable to termites than North America’s temperate climate. Unlike North American termite species, there exists a number of mound-building termite species in South America. The mounds built by some South American species are considered by many to be awe inspiring sights, and tourists from all over the world travel to South American countries just to view these majestic mounds on location. For example, glowing termite mounds attract tourists to Emas National Park in Brazil. These mounds glow at night due to bioluminescent beetles burrowing into the sides of these mounds. Also, a town in Guyana called St Cuthbert’s Mission sees thousands of tourists visiting every year in order to appreciate the region’s picturesque flora and fauna as well as the many termite mounds. In order to increase eco-tourism in the town, local politicians had an eco-lodge constructed near the town’s Mahaica River. Unfortunately, the five million dollar eco-lodge has become infested with termites only one year after its construction ended.

The eco-lodge’s construction was facilitated by the United Nations Development Program and the former Ministry of Amerindian Affairs with the purpose of promoting wildlife and ecosystem preservation efforts. However, not one single visitor has entered the eco-lodge during its entire year of existence. Due to the termite infestation within the lodge, developers are hoping to salvage useful building materials for other construction projects. One developer is hoping that the town’s city council will allow him to remove the zinc sheets from the structure in order to use them for constructing new homes for the elderly and other needy residents. Sadly, most of the structure’s wood has become riddled with termites, which means that much of this wood will likely be used for nothing more than firewood.

Do you think that the lodge came to be infested with termites because construction developers skipped the application of preventative termiticides within the soil around the structures?

 

 

Termites

How Does A Queen Termite Instruct Her Workers During The Construction Of Her Royal Chamber?

Scientists have long been researching the nest-building behavior of termites in order to better understand how queen termites communicate with worker termites. Many termite species have worker termites constructing a royal chamber for the queen and king as the first stage of nest construction. Worker termites, of course, do not refer to any sort of blueprint for constructing nests; instead, the queen directs workers on how to construct the nest by emitting a “building-pheromone.” In addition to the building-pheromone, termite workers emit what are called “trail-pheromones” while foraging in order to provide additional workers with a scent trail that leads to a food source.Surprisingly, researchers have found that trail-pheromones are also essential for coordinating the nest-building behavior performed by worker termites.

It had been traditionally assumed that the building-pheromone was the only type of pheromone necessary for facilitating nest construction. However, A study conducted by British researchers revealed that trail-pheromones allow worker termites to construct architecturally challenging pillars within the royal chamber. During construction, worker termites were found to emit trail-pheromones along the path from the queen and her chamber to the soil source where the building materials are retrieved. Researchers showed that when worker termites are deprived of their ability to emit trail-pheromones during construction,they fail to complete the pillar formations.

Before worker termites construct the royal chamber around the queen,the queen emits building-pheromones in liquid form. A small amount of workers then proceed to rub this liquid pheromone on the queen’s abdomen for the purpose of grooming her. When the pheromone diffuses away from the queen’s body, worker termites sense the pheromone, which triggers their building behavior. The diffusion of the building-pheromone also creates a one to two inch zone where termites walk between a source of soil for building and the queen. As it happens, the soil source also contains what are called “cement pheromones.” These pheromones attract workers to the soil source before prompting them to deposit a soil pellet onto the royal chamber during its construction, similar to a brick being added to the wall of an unfinished house. This cycle repeats until the royal chamber’s construction is complete.While researchers now know that at least three different types of pheromones are involved in the construction of the royal chamber, pheromone messaging systems in termite colonies remain poorly understood by researchers.

Do you think that the queen is responsible for emitting the cement pheromones that attract termites to the soil used for constructing the royal chamber?

02 (2)

Termite-Induced Damage To Dykes And Dams Can Cause The Structures To Collapse, Resulting In Widespread Disaster

The Formosan subterranean termite species is often cited by experts as being the most destructive termite species in existence. The scientific name for this species, Coptotermes formosanus, is often confused with the name of another destructive termite species, Odontotermes formosanus. Both of these species are native to China, but the Coptotermes formosanus species has spread all over the world by means of maritime travel. Although the Odontotermes formosanus species only dwells in Asia, and is therefore less destructive than the Formosan termite species, Odontotermes formosanus is unique among termite species due to its habit of inflicting serious structural damages to dams and dykes. While termite destruction is typically limited to a single house or building, numerous studies show that Odontotermes formosanus pest activity can lead to the collapse of dams and dykes, which would result in widespread destruction and a massive loss of life.

The  Odontotermes formosanus species is commonly known as the black-winged subterranean termite. These termites have been found digging three foot deep cavities into many dams and dykes located in southern China. Furthermore, these termites build extensive networks of tunnels throughout these structures. These internal tunnels weaken the structure, and the resulting damage causes dams and dykes to absorb and retain unusually large amounts of water. When the internal structure of dams and dykes become saturated with large amounts of water, complete collapse can result.

The Odontotermes formosanus species of termite is the most destructive dam/pest in the world. According to an investigation, when totaling all river dikes and reservoir dams that are 15 years or older within China’s 14 southern provinces, 90 percent were found to have sustained damage from the Odontotermes formosanus termite species. The economic cost of termite-induced damage to dams and dikes in Asia costs hundreds of millions of American dollars each year. Researchers in China have been working for decades to develop a pest control strategy that could be applied to structures like dams and dikes, but no effective control measure has yet been produced.

Do you think that continuous termite activity within dams and/or dikes could result in collapse, and therefore, mass flooding in urban areas?

02 (2)

A Personal Experience With A Termite Infestation Inspired An Artist To Create Furniture With Termite-Damaged Wood

If there is one thing more worthless than driftwood, then it would be termite-infested driftwood. Rotten wood that is infested with termites does not make for suitable building material, even if the infested wood is treated for termites. In fact, rotten wood that is being damaged by an active termite infestation cannot be salvaged for any purpose, unless you happen to be an artist who wants to create aesthetically unique pieces of furniture, of course. Rather than letting perfectly good termite-riddled wood materials rot and go to waste, Prantosh Kumar Das collects infested wood debris from the many trees that termites have claimed in his home country. Das uses the collected wood to construct items such as tables and cabinets. Of course, Das has the termites eradicated from each log that he plans to use for building. In addition to being used as a construction material, the termite-damaged wood also serves as a conspicuous decorative feature that gives Das’ final products their distinct artistic style.

Prantosh Kumar Das is an officer with the Bihar Military Police in Begusarai, India, but his real passion is finding new and creative uses for the termite infested logs that are abundant in many parts of India. Das’ latest creation is an almirah (cabinet) that was made partly from logs that were once infested with termites. The almirah’s structure is supported with logs that are marked with quasi-geometric patterns that were inflicted by the log’s former termite inhabitants. In order to retain the log’s original shape and termite-markings, Das avoids applying external varnish and does not resort to carpentry of any kind. According to Das, the idea to make creative use of termite-damaged wood came to him when he was living within an apartment that became infested with termites that had originated from a tree within the building’s front yard.

Das fell in love with a picturesque Gulmohar tree that beautified his former apartment grounds. A termite infestation in the tree eventually saw the destructive insects access several apartment units by crawling along the length of the branches. Once this occurred, a majority of the apartment dwellers voted to remove the infested tree from the property. In an attempt to save his beloved tree, Das offered to personally pay to have the termites professionally eradicated from the tree, but the tree was eventually removed in spite of Das’ protests. In the weeks prior to the tree’s removal, Das collected the tree’s fallen and infested limbs in an effort to retain mementos of the tree. Once Das secured a hefty amount of the tree’s limbs, he had each one cleared of termites by applying insecticide so that he could memorialize his favorite tree in the form of furniture. Two tables that Das created with formerly infested logs have been transferred to the Das Driftwood Museum-cum-Park in Budhapur.

Do you think Das is being reckless by collecting and storing termite-infested logs?

 

 

 

Researchers Discover Why Termite Queens And Kings Live Unusually Long Lives

Waco Termite Control Experts

When considering all animals, it is generally understood that animals with rapid reproductive rates live shorter lives, and animals that are less fertile live longer lives. This is almost always the case in the animal kingdom, but it seems that termites may be exempt from this biological rule. Termite queens and kings, as many of you already know, reproduce at incredibly rapid rates. Given this fact, a termite reproductive’s lifespan should be very short in duration. However, a termite colony’s royal pair actually live as long as twenty, thirty or even forty years. Amazingly, royal termites from some colonies are reported to live for as long as fifty years. So why is this? Recently a group of researchers set up several experiments aimed at finding an answer to this question.

Researchers have recently published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that has shed some light on the genetic peculiarities that allow royal termite pairs to live for several decades. The researchers from the Zoology Department at the University of Freiburg, chose to study one of the most reproductively successful termite species as a model in their study. This species is known as Macrotermes bellicosus, and they are actually the most reproductively successful terrestrial animals that exist. Macrotermes queens lay around twenty thousand eggs per day, which makes them highly fertile to say the least. Despite the Macrotermes queen’s high reproduction rate, these queens live to be around twenty years old. According to Ph.D. student Daniel Elsner and Dr. Karen Meusemann, Macrotermes workers and queens possess identical genomes, but workers only live for five years at most.

After comparing the specific genes between Macrotermes queens, kings and workers, researchers found that queens and kings appear genetically identical, even when they are years apart in age. However, the workers, although much younger than the royal pairs, had an added genetic mechanism that makes them age faster than royals. The workers possessed what are called “jumping genes”, which are genes that replicate automatically. When genes replicate, mistakes can occur, and mutations are common. Obviously, reproductive queens and kings are responsible for breeding every individual termite in a colony, so they cannot afford to risk genetic mutations that result from jumping genes. If the royal pair possessed jumping genes that cause mutations, then a colony would become genetically compromised, resulting in colony death. Luckily, for termite queens and kings, the absence of jumping genes has the added benefit of preventing aging.

Have you always wondered why termite queens and kings lived unusually long lifespans?

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Do All Termite Species Produce Large Amounts Of Greenhouse Gases?

Waco Termite Control

At the end of the day, there is no doubt that termites are more helpful than harmful to humans and the environment. Termite populations are most diverse in the tropics, and this is a good thing. The all encompassing vegetation in tropical regions may be due to termite activity in soil. Termites plow soil loose and they always enrich soil through mineralization. This process is especially beneficial to tropical forms of plant life since seventy percent of all termites on the planet are active in tropical regions. This is an especially impressive statistic considering that these same tropical areas only account for twenty percent of the earth’s surface. Subterranean termites are highly beneficial, and are even essential to the breakdown of plant matter. However, termites also emit significant amounts of two greenhouse gases, but some termite species emit more of these gases than others.

Termites emit methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. One past study demonstrated that termites account for forty percent of all methane in the atmosphere annually. However, this study’s results are highly misleading since only very few regions were tested for methane levels, and subsequent studies have indicated that termite species living in certain regions produce more or less than other termite species located elsewhere.

Not all termites feed exclusively on wooden items. For example, soil feeding termites extract nutrition from soil through the process of hummus fraction. These soil-feeding termites produce ten times the amount of methane that wood-feeding termites produce. More recent statistics on this topic put the amount of methane produced by termites every year as two to five percent of the global total. Obviously, more greenhouses gases are produced by livestock, gas and coal mining, but two to five percent is still an amazing amount of methane for tiny centimeter long insects to produce.

Do you think that fungus-farming termites of the termitidae family produce the least amount of methane per year when considering all termite families?