Specimen of Invasive ‘Tremendous-Termite’ Captured in Israel, Elevating Hopes of Controlling the Species

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The Formosa termite (Coptotermes formosanus). Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A specimen of an insect species so harmful that it is sometimes referred to as a “supertermite” has been caught in Israel, giving environmental officials an opportunity to eradicate the invasive species.

The Formosa termite (Coptotermes formosanus) is believed to have originated in southern China or Taiwan, but has spread around the world mainly because of its aggression and voracious appetite.

Israeli news site N12 reported that the species was found eight months ago in the city of Petah Tikvah, Israel. On Wednesday morning, after an extensive search, an underground monitoring station managed to catch a live specimen.

The catch is important because the only way to control the species is to give an individual a growth-inhibiting hormone, which will then distribute it to the rest of the colony.

The “Supertermite” breeds in the millions and builds colonies underground that can quickly infect buildings and other artificial structures. According to Pest World website, their colonies alone can number 350,000 workers and their queens can lay 1,000 eggs per day. The beetles are eating wood at a fantastic rate, with one colony consuming more than an ounce every 24 hours.

In the United States alone, the species is believed to cause $ 5 billion in damage annually. In the state of Hawaii, for example, the Formosa termite is responsible for 50% of all high-rise infestations.

Israel’s Ministry of Environment told N12 that in the coming days the termites will be releasing “swarmers” – winged individuals emerging from the underground colonies and being blown up for breeding purposes.

Gal Zagron, Head of Pest Control and Management at the Ministry, said of the swarm, “We’re talking about a once-a-year opportunity to see a termite break out of its nest in the ground and trees and into the air. “

“Since this is a new invasive species,” she explained, “it is important to immediately locate every location where Formosa termite colonies are to try to prevent their harmful spread and establishment across the country.”