The invaders, nasutitermes corniger termites, are commonly known as tree termites. They live above ground, meaning they can easily move to new sources of wood, and they build brown tubes up the walls of houses and other buildings as they forage.
Although they aren’t native to Florida, one city there—Dania Beach—has been struggling with them since 2001. After believing they were eradicated at that time by heavy spraying, they have recently turned up again. (They were likely first transported to Dania Beach by ship, stowing away on wooden pallets that were unloaded in a local marina.)
Florida Takes Action
The Florida Department of Agriculture—recognizing the potential damage due to the increased termite infestation that could spread across tropical Florida—isn’t taking the threat lightly. In May, department employees treated the nearly 50 properties where the termites have been reported, all within the same square mile.
Because these termites live above ground, they aren’t competing with the native subterranean termites, meaning homeowners in south Florida face the prospect of a 25-30 percent increase in overall termite population, said Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida, in an interview reported by local TV station WPTV. Tree termites particularly like to eat hardwood, and they are very aggressive. Neighbors in the infested neighborhood report rapid damage to trees, firewood piles being completely eaten, and the wood handles of shovels, rakes, and the like being turned into mulch.
Much worse, the termites can quickly destroy a home once they begin attacking it. The Agriculture Department sprayed all the nests they could find, as well as the foraging tubes running up houses. Scheffrahn said there were about 100 to 120 colonies, each of which could be home to more than a million termites. It was critical to treat this termite infestation immediately, before mature winged termites flew elsewhere to make their nests, he said.
Only time will tell if their effort was successful.