A dangerous new termite has turned up in South Florida, leading local officials to organize a campaign to wipe it out before it can spread.
“The Nasutitermes corniger termite, which is native to the Caribbean, lives above ground, builds brown tubes up the outside walls of houses and shows a particular taste for hardwood. The insect’s above-ground habitat means it would avoid direct competition with native, subterranean termites and raise the total number of termites that could live in the region by 25 to 30 percent”, said Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, professor of entomology at the University of Florida.
“They forage on the open floor, which is something you don’t see unless you live in the tropics,” he said. “They love to eat hardwoods. They ate the handles off garden implements, rakes and hoes – turned them into shredded wheat. If this thing really keeps going, it’s going to be a problem for tropical Florida, from West Palm Beach to the Keys.”
Workers from the Florida Department of Agriculture are treating homes in Dania Beach, where 42 properties have been found to be harboring these insects. The nests of these termites are about the size of a beach ball, made of termite excrement and are constructed above ground. These nests will be treated, along with the foraging tubes running up trees and homes.
Martha Rosen, a local resident, said that she and her husband first noticed strange dark lines going up the sides of their home. She soon found out what was causing them.
“They got into the tool shed and ate our stack of firewood,” she said. “We went to pick it up and there was no wood left. They’re very aggressive. My trees look like they’re almost dead.”
“The species first showed up in Dania Beach in 2001. Aggressive spraying was thought to have eradicated it, but then it turned up last summer. They are thought to have originally arrived on wooden pallets brought from the Caribbean to a nearby marina,” said Michael Page, chief of the Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control for the Florida Department of Agriculture.
He went on to say, “Time is of the essence, because any day the winged termites could take to the air to establish new nests.”