I am hearing rumors that this beast is in the St.Petersburg area, particularly in the Gulfport area. Anybody got any proof…
Aggressive termites on the move
Two very damaging species spreading in So. Florida
- By David Fleshler, Sun Sentinel
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - They fly on humid April and May evenings, up to 50,000 ferocious termites in a single group, winging their way deeper into the neighborhoods of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
It’s flight season for the Formosan subterranean termite, one of two non-native species that have appeared in Broward and Palm Beach counties in the past seven years or so and proven more difficult to root out than the more common drywood termite. In the evening, over the next several weeks, tens of thousands of Formosan termite kings and queens, as scientists refer to fertile males and females, fly up to half a mile from their home colonies to found new ones.
Unlike the more common drywood termites, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites colonize the ground under houses, making them much more difficult to eradicate.
“These are two of the more aggressive, damaging species,” said Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, professor of entomology at the University of Florida. “They tend to have very large populations, up into the millions. And they tend to have pretty large foraging areas. A single colony of these termites won’t affect just a single house, a single colony will infest a cul-de-sac, an entire neighborhood.”
The two species arrived in South Florida on oceangoing yachts, scientists say, with infestations tending to originate in marinas and inland waterways before spreading into neighborhoods. Unlike Australia, which requires strict inspections to make sure oceangoing pleasure boats don’t bring in exotic pests, the United States requires no such screening, allowing boats from the Caribbean and elsewhere to bring termites into South Florida undetected.
Although exterminators tend to encounter the drywood termite most frequently, it’s the Asian and Formosan termites that they find most difficult to deal with.
“Their colonies are huge,” said Bruce Edwards, president of Dead Bug Edwards Pest Control of Fort Lauderdale whose recent call list suggests they’re particularly prevalent in the Victoria Park and Rio Vista sections of eastern Fort Lauderdale. “It’s not a super termite. There are just a lot more of them.”
Mark Jett, owner of Jett Termite Proof Services, remembers one foreclosed house in Hallandale Beach on which Formosan termites had feasted for months. “The ceiling rafters were gone,” he said. “You could crumble up the wood. You could just put your finger right through it.”
Scheffrahn says his studies of the spread of these species found dozens of new infestations that could be attributed to boats. The swift spread through Broward and Palm Beach counties took place via boats, with the first arriving on oceangoing yachts and other boats picking up termites in marinas and spreading them into waterfront neighborhoods.
The Port of Palm Beach, for example, is a major site for infestations, and that’s due to the large docking areas for private yachts. Other infestations tend to follow the navigable canals that snake through residential sections of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“Boats are their main way of spreading,” Scheffrahn said. “They came here to South Florida in floating colonies.”
When the colonies break off to form new ones, the sheer numbers of termites in flight can be huge. “There have been these massive flights in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach,” Scheffrahn said. “It looks like it’s snowing outside.”
The vast majority will end up as lunch for lizards, birds and other creatures. But just two of the fertile couples can found a colony that in a few years will produce millions of termites.
Although they can be spread quickly by boats, the natural spread of these termites is slow. They tend to fly only a few hundred yards - and at most a half-mile - to establish new colonies. And once they do establish the colony, it takes four or five years for that colony to produce fertile offspring ready to fly off and extend the species’ range.
As for the future, he said, “Obviously they’re going to keep spreading. They’re so deeply entrenched. They’re subterranean termites, they’re hard to get to and they’re here to stay forever.”
The National Pest Management Association estimates that termites cause $5 billion in damage a year across the country.
Gary Stanford, an environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Agriculture, which oversees pest-control operators, says the agency recommends that every home have a termite contract — preferably one with coverage that pays for any retreatments or repairs that may be required and covers subterranean and drywood termites.
Building codes require that a home be treated before a slab is poured, either with chemicals in the ground or bait stations in the topsoil for subterranean termites, but it’s up to the homeowner to extend that initial protection with something such as a termite contract.
When purchasing a previously owned home, the buyer should ask the seller for an active, assumable termite contract with a guarantee to keep the house termite-free or to re-treat and
repair any damage. If such a contract isn’t in force at the time of the sale, the buyer should require a termite inspection and some form of treatment, along with a new contract.
Homeowners should obtain price quotes from several licensed companies before choosing one. Owners can check for problems with a pest-control operator by calling the Agriculture Department in Tallahassee at 850-617-7997
Staff writer Linda Florea contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
I have this on my facebook page…but i was talking to a termite guy and he said they are in gulfport but can’t remember the links…