Spectacularly harmful ‘super-termite’ arrives in Israel for first time

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The so-called “super termite”, one of the most destructive pests in the world, has arrived in Israel, the Ministry of Environment said on Wednesday.

Coptotermes formosanus, or the Formosan termite, named after Formosa in Taiwan, loves hot, humid conditions and has been confirmed in the city of Petah Tikva in the central plains of Israel.

The species eats anything that contains cellulose, such as wood, paper, or cardboard, and is also known to gobble up copper and lead sheets, plaster of paris, asphalt foam insulation boards, plastics, and even underground power lines.

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In most cases, termite-infested plants survive. However, there are cases when citrus and eucalyptus trees have died. Both are widespread in Israel, with the former being an important source of income for agriculture.

No country infected with this termite has yet succeeded in eradicating it.

Formosan termites. Courtesy Tomer Lev, Total Pest Control)

The Ministry of the Environment urges the authorities, the public and pest controllers to keep an eye out for termites and report any suspicious items to local councils and the Ministry.

It has also set up a panel of experts to deal with the invasion and lay down building codes in areas where the termites are active.

Formosan termites (US Agricultural Research Service / Wikipedia)

Environment Minister Gila Gamliel warned that with increasing trade and global warming, an increase in invasive species could be expected.

The destructive ability of the species is due to the size of its colonies, which can number several million members. The queen termite, which has lived for about 15 years, lays about 2,000 eggs a day. According to reports, a colony can eat up to 400 grams of wood a day, making buildings unsafe in just a few months.

It occurs naturally in southern China. It has since traveled around the world by attaching elevators to ships and gained a foothold internationally in the last century.

In the United States, it appeared in four isolated port cities in the 1960s and has since spread to all of the southeastern states.

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