Wednesday, March 01, 2006

MORE ON FORMOSAN TERMITES

I found a site from the Ohio Extension Service that tells the entire story on termites, probably more than you wanted to know. It's part of my promised search for more information on Formosan Termites. Check it out! Remember to let me know if you find other sites that could help answer this question!

1 Comments:

At March 04, 2006, Anonymous Terry L. Yockey said...

Hi! I am a master gardener in Minnesota and Jeff Hahn, Dept. of Entomology, Univ. of Minn. asked us to pass along this information on Formosan termites...here goes:

I have received a lot of e-mails over a story that has been
circulating the internet this week concerning the potential of
accidentally purchasing mulch that may be infested with Formosan
termites. If you have not seen this story, this is how it reads:

If you use mulch around your house be very careful about buying mulch
this year. After the Hurricane in New Orleans many trees were blown
over. These trees were then turned into mulch and the state is trying
to get rid of tons and tons of this mulch to any state or company who
will come and haul it away. So it will be showing up in Home Depot
and Lowe's at dirt cheap prices with one huge problem. Formosan
Termites will be the bonus in many of those bags. New Orleans is one
of the few areas in the country were the Formosan Termite has a
strong hold and most of the trees blown down were already badly
infested. Now we may have the worst case of transporting a problem to
all parts of the country that we have ever had. These termites can
eat a house in no time at all and we have no good control against
them, so avoid cheap mulch and know were it came from.

This story implies that it was written by someone at LSU, although no
one there was responsible. However, it is true that Dennis Ring, an
entomologist at LSU, did produce a news release last October about
accidentally moving Formosan termites from hurricane ravished areas
in Louisiana. In it, he warned people that they could spread
Formosan termites around the state and other parts of the country by
using railroad ties, reusing architectural wood, or other whole
pieces of wood or lumber that were infested with Formosan
termites. Interestingly, no where in the original article did he
discuss mulch.

There are some elements of truth in this scenario. First Formosan
termites are very aggressive and destructive termites. Although they
are a type of subterranean termite, it is relatively common for these
termites to produce aerial colonies and to infest damaged trees. In
one instance, they have been transported accidentally in
mulch. However, after that much of what is said is exaggerated and
unnecessarily alarmist.

In conversations I have had with colleagues, it is recognized that no
one knows for sure what would happen to termites in a tree that was
chipped or mulched. However, it is universally agreed that it is
highly unlikely that they would survive the process. Another factor
is that termites do not survive well in mulch. Consider that as the
internal temperature of a pile mulch increases, it can reach lethal
temperatures that would kill termites as well as other
insects. Also, Formosan termites are not tolerant of cold
temperatures. They are not known to infest areas further north than
35o N latitude. Minnesota should be well beyond their reach.

Another mitigating factor is that Louisiana imposed a quarantine in
several hurricane-damaged parishes. The quarantine specifically
addresses the concern about Formosan termite-infested wood products
being shipped to new areas. According to Dr. Gregg Henderson,
research entomologist and termite expert from LSU, all yard debris
and dead trees are being burned or shipped to a large local landfill
near New Orleans. It seems unlikely that a major home improvement
store like a WalMart or Lowe's would come into possession of such
mulch as it would have to purchase it illegally.

In summary, it isn't impossible that Formosan termites could be
accidently transported in mulch to Minnesota but it is very unlikely

If you are interested in reading further information on this, check
out these sources. The first is a Snopes article found here,
http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/household/termites.asp . Mike Merchant,
an urban entomologist at Texas A&M wrote the following article,
http://citybugs.tamu.edu/IntheNews_Details.asp?ID_Key=425 .

Please pass this information on to other MGs that may not be on the
listserve as this could generate a considerable amount of questions
from the public.

Jeff Hahn
Dept. of Entomology
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55108

 

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