The termite take-over in South Florida seems like it can’t get any worse. Well, maybe it has.
Two relatively new species of termites are worse than ever this year. Pest control company phones are ringing off the hook now that swarming season is here. Reluctant homeowners better act when telltale wings and colonies appear.
“In the last five years there has been a 30 percent increase in Formosan and Asian termites in southeast Florida,” says Rudolf Scheffrahn, a University of Florida entomology professor based in Davie. “It won’t get better because they have no natural enemies and only a fraction of the population is being treated by the pest control industry.”
Known as super termites, they arrive in huge numbers and hit hard. A typical colony can host several million members traveling underground, burrowing up through buildings and munching through wood.
The Formosan subterranean species, which are arguably the most dangerous.
Not only do they chew through wood, but the termite army also moves through the plumbing system and can disintegrate concrete breaching every area of your home.
Spreading Their Wings
These super termites got here by hitching rides on ships and yachts, infesting new territories near the Port of Palm Beach, the New River in Fort Lauderdale and the Miami River, Scheffrahn says.
At the rate they are spreading, half of the homes and buildings from the Keys to Palm Beach County are predicted to be at risk for infestation over the next 20 years, according to a study by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Formosan termites are expanding their territory every year,” says Nan-Yao Su, a UF professor of entomology also based in Davie. “Last year, they expanded inland. They were only east of University Drive. Now, we are seeing them west of Pine Island Drive in Davie. Once they get into the area, they have a hold and you can’t get rid of them.”
Scheffrahn believes it won’t take long for the Formosan and Asian termites to be just as widespread as the West Indian drywood and Florida dampwood termites that have been wreaking havoc here for centuries.
The Formosan termites have already overrun Dania Beach, Hallandale Beach and Hollywood homes. And they have driven other species out of town, specifically the Eastern subterranean.
As soon as you see the signs, act quickly, Scattered wings, bugs flying near lights, mud tubes around the house’s foundation, fecal pellets under infested wood are all signs of termites.
Termite damage does not happen overnight. It is a gradual process, but if left untreated can cause thousands of dollars in damage. The termite extermination industry makes about $50 million to $100 million annually just in South Florida, which does not include repairs homeowners may have to make.
Options for Treatment
When it comes to termites, identification is the key to effective treatment. Options include tenting for drywood termites, spraying insecticides or placing baits around the perimeter of buildings for subterraneans.
Tenting costs $1,100 to $4,000 depending on the size of the building; condo buildings cost an average of $9,000 or more. Treatments typically come with a one-year warranty.
But treating subterraneans with chemical pesticides (the most prevalent service offered by pest control companies) is not the best way to rid your home of the pests.
Houses sit on a soil, so unless you lift up your house and spray underneath and put the house back, there will always be a gap.
How Long Do Homeowners Have Before Termites are Treated
Drywood termites are slow eaters with 1,000 termites in a colony. Within 20 to 30 years, you can have up to 50 colonies if left untreated. But tenting kills everything.
If you have a new colony of Formosan or Asian termites, you’ve got three to five years until they do substantial damage. It’s best to treat them immediately with the bait system. When it comes to subterranean termites, you really need to think about the entire community.
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