BREVARD COUNTY – The University of Florida, Institute for Expansion of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF / IFAS) is helping residents and homeowners fight termites.
Termite identification and awareness can save homeowners thousands of dollars while addressing a larger environmental problem, forest conservation.
Dr. Thomas Chouvenc, assistant professor of urban entomology, is helping residents identify and control invasive termite species across the state, particularly in the southern counties.
“South Florida has more species of termites than any other part of the US, and we are facing some of the worst invasive species that are also problematic for homeowners and the canopy of trees that surround suburban and urban centers,” he said .
Research is focused on three types of known termites in Florida: the more common drywood, but also two disturbing species – the Formosan and the Asiatic subterranean.
“The drywood termites are usually visible year round if you have an active colony. When you have coffee powder or particles of sand that build up outside of a piece of wood or furniture, a windowsill, or a baseboard, “he said.” Another sign is once a year, when the colony is ripe, that they are producing these wing termites that will create new colonies. “
The drywood termite produces relatively small but multiple colonies in areas and can survive without access to water – one of the few organisms that can live without water for their entire life.
Dr. Chouvenc explains that while the colonies themselves are small, swarms of colonies that are not identified and addressed can cause cumulative damage to homes and structures.
“In Florida, one of the main ways to fix this is through structural fumigation, which basically consists of putting a large tent around the house, inoculating it with a gas to reset the house and killing everything in the house.” he said. “Then if you remove the tarp and the gas is gone, you can reoccupy the termite-free house.”
However, the underground termite, which needs water to survive, offers a much more difficult solution than fumigation.
“Subterranean termites need water to survive, so they can come out of the ground where they can infest the water from the ground within a structure,” he said. “The colonies tend to be much, much larger. We are talking about millions of people, not just a few hundred or thousands that we would see in termites made from dry wood. The bigger problem is that many mouths need to be fed and that they can cause damage from the ground much faster than drywood termites, “he said.” This makes them difficult to spot in the first place, because by the time you find you have them the structure is already substantial Damage. “
Native subterranean termites have invaded the United States from Florida to Canada, but invasive species like the Formosan subterranean termite have populated many areas of sprawl across the state.
“It is present in many cities in Panhandle, Jacksonville, Orlando and parts of the west coast cities and urban areas of South Florida,” he said. “They tend to be more problematic than our native termites because they can form even larger colonies.”
Another species the university is studying is, according to Dr. Chouvenc the “tropical cousin”, the Asian underground termite. This species thrives on the warmer, tropical climates that Florida is used to.
“Because it is tropical, its metabolism is a little better adapted to this type of hot and humid weather and is therefore very well established,” he said. “In just 20 years, it has spread significantly in many urban areas around South Florida and not only creates a structural problem, but also affects urban canopy. We have noticed that we are starting to lose historical trees so we are very concerned that the landscape will change over time. “
The concern is that significant damage to trees caused by termites can be exponentially faster than the decades it would take to replace them. While the cost of structural damage can be fixed, albeit at the expense of a homeowner, forest and environmental ecosystems are much harder to replicate once they are destroyed.
The Asiatic underground termite usually starts large swarms in early March, while the Formosan swarms from April to early May. Since these two species are already predominantly established in the state, the termite inspection process needs to be reconsidered. “
The UF / IFAS extension collects data submitted by Florida residents to help identify these species as well, as they are often mistaken for flying ants.
Dr. Choevenc explains that this is a very important distinction as the two insects have the same schooling seasons. Residents have the option to send in samples of the insects they may find in their home for identification and appropriate advice on eradication.
“First of all, we can tell if it’s an ant, but more importantly, if it’s a termite, we can tell if it’s a native [subterranean] one of the most invasive [subterranean] or if it is one of the drywood termites. This information will help the pest control provider know what to do as each species must be treated differently. Knowing that you have termites and which termites you have is really the first big step because everything else after that is routine, ”he said.
According to Dr. Chouvenc a “silver ball”. As the species moves through the ground, it is more difficult to successfully exterminate an entire colony because the majority live underground. This key to identifying the means and costs of proper destruction.
Dr. Chouvenc explains that most invasive termite species, like any invasive animal or insect species, are generally transmitted by ships.
This makes coastal cities with harbors much more vulnerable to vegetation and damage to their surroundings.
Residents are encouraged to send samples of these possible species to the UF / IFAS research team. The information will help to maintain and maintain general environmental protection.
“It’s part of a more borderline problem now,” he said. “Knowing what to look for is half the solution to the problem. Knowing that you have a termite problem sooner than finding it when it is far too late can be critical to both the environment and structural damage. “
You can find the UF / IFAS termite card at https://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/termites-in-florida/termite-distribution/.
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