TAMPA, FLORIDA — Florida: home to sunshine, beautiful beaches and…termites? Researchers at the University of Florida sounded the alarm in March when they detected a new, invasive species of termite in the Tampa Bay region.
This new species, known as the Asian Subterranean Termite, can cause more harm than other species of termites because of its ability to consume wood at a rapid rate and shred any material in its path.
FIRST SHOWED UP IN MIAMI
"In the late 1990's, early 2000's, the Asian Subterranean Termite showed up in Miami and is exclusively a problem to southeast Florida… until now," said Urban Entomology Expert Thomas Chouvenc with the University of Florida IFAS.
Hillsborough County pest control operators initially sounded the alarm when they began detecting the new species in an increasing number of homes and businesses throughout the area. University of Florida researchers, unfortunately, confirmed the resurgence.
"We are in a place in the country where we have the most termite species because we're close to the tropics," explained Chouvenc. "And just as of yesterday I received a sample confirming, too, that they are established in parts of Fort Myers. We didn't expect them to be successfully established like this. Chances [are], it's been here for 5 to 10 years, it's just finally been reported through pest control inspections and this is where we realize how important it is to have regular inspections.”
ATTACK FROM BELOW
The scientific name of the termite is “Coptotermes gestroi”, and they’re known to shred anything in their path. “It feeds on the outer layer of the tree and basically shreds it to the point where there's nothing left,” said Chouvenc. They’re also known to build up their population underground and then attack from colonies below the surface.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, although these termites typically live underground, they can build and live in nests above ground. Additionally, they can be found in walls and attics of structures and in nearby trees, soil and leaf litter.
WHAT TO DO
If you do live in Hillsborough County, don’t worry too much because there are things you can do to prevent and control these stubborn creatures from invading. Some of these include: having your home annually inspected by a licensed pest control company; reducing moisture by keeping doors closed; directing your sprinklers away from your home; repairing any water leaks; and repairing cracks in your home’s foundation.
Additionally, Chouvenc recommends conducting tree inspections because oftentimes, Asian subterranean termites are first detected in trees, where the colonies begin forming.
”Conducting intensive tree inspection efforts in the known infested areas would slow down the spread of this invasive termite species in this area, save many trees and prevent costly damages to structures," said Chouvenc.