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Asian Termites are Killing South Florida’s Pine Trees

Asian Termites are Killing South Florida's Pine Trees

As if invasive Asian subterranean termites weren’t causing enough harm to homes and businesses in South Florida with their super-sized colonies and voracious appetites, the Sun-Sentinel reported in an April 24 article that now these aggressive termites are chowing down on South Florida pine trees. According to the Sun-Sentinel, a University of Florida (UF) research team just published a study in Florida Entomologist that zeroes in on the destruction of native slash pines in Ft. Lauderdale. Thomas Chouvenc, assistant professor of urban entomology at the UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led the study that examined 400 slash pines in residential areas and parks in the Ft. Lauderdale area.

Asian termites are infesting live pine trees

What the team found raises concerns for native Florida trees that have provided shade, oxygen and wildlife habitats for South Florida’s tropical bird populations and other animals, for over a century. The study revealed that over the past five years, 12% of the slash pines in the residential areas and 3% in the city’s parks surveyed were killed by Asian termites. Chouvenc warned that these aggressive termites are on course to cause deadly damage here and in Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, and parts of Broward County if left to their own devices. “The clock is ticking on most of our slash pines in greater Fort Lauderdale,” he said. “I think we’re on the way to irreversibly lose most of these slash pines if we don’t do anything.”

Non-native Asian termites swarm at night

Most South Florida homeowners are familiar with Asian and Formosan subterranean termites. Both species of subterranean termites have been making headlines as they ravage homes and businesses in search of food for their growing populations. Far more aggressive than native termites, Asian termites are yellowish-brown and about one-half inch long, with colonies consisting of over a million members.

Where did these Non-native Asian termites get here?

Southeast Asia natives, Asian termites were probably introduced to South Florida as stowaways on cargo ships and yachts, according to most sources. The first reported sightings in the US occurred in Miami in 1996 as well as Ft. Lauderdale and Riviera Beach in 2005. Building extensive colonies underground, new Asian termite colonies are established when swarms of reproductive alates take flight on spring nights in search of mates. These newly formed pairs then burrow into trees and houses to start growing their own colonies. Chouvenc indicated that the park trees may have been spared from more Asian termites than residential trees because Asian termites swarming at night are attracted to the lights in residential areas.

Slash pine – one of South Florida’s signature trees

Slash pines, one of old South Florida’s most distinctive trees, gets their name from the slashes cut at angles into their trucks in order to extract sap or resin. Extracting pine resin or sap for waterproofing boats and making turpentine was at one time a major component of the southern economy. As a popular, sturdy building material, known as Dade County pine, many older slash pine homes in South Florida have weathered a century of hurricanes.

Slash pines were “one of the original canopy trees in the area,” said Michael Orfanedes, Broward County extension agent for commercial horticulture. “They’re just a fraction of what they were originally because of development. They’re famous for harboring birds in their hollows.” Slash pines grew in rockland habitats where the dry land was much sought after by real estate developers. This development considerably reduced slash pine populations, resulting in slash pines scattered through parks and neighborhoods.

Asian termites slowly starve trees

Because termites can’t eat the dead tissue in the sappy, inner wood, or believe us, they would, the termites attack the live tissue on the outer layers of the trunk. Eating the wood in the trunks of slash pines severs tubes that transport nutrients, such as sugar, to the live tree. The tree slowly starves as its vascular system is cut off or disabled. To make matters worse, the UF study also revealed that Asian termites are not terribly picky eaters, as a number of other trees that make up the South Florida urban canopy show signs of infestations, in particular, live oaks.

Live oak and other tree losses could be devastating in a direct hit by a hurricane

Elegant and massive live oaks, a grand feature of the southern landscape, by design, have withstood hurricanes through the years. Asian termites, while not killing these graceful giants, hollow them out, weakening them in storms. Due to their hollowed-out insides, three live oaks in Broward County perished when Hurricane Irma glanced by Broward County. Chouvenc said that these live oaks would have survived if they had not been affected by Asian termites. The UF researcher also said that due to the fact that so many trees have been affected by Asian termites, “a direct hit would have been that much more devastating.” Chouvenc pointed out that since Wilma in 2005, the area hasn’t been hit by a major hurricane, “so it’s been 12 or 13 years of damage that’s been piling up in these trees.”

Further research is needed to assess the threat of Asian termites on our tree population

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Asian termite activity in live trees may pose a serious threat but Mark Torok, senior forester said Asian termites may be a serious threat but that further research is needed. “It’s definitely something we shouldn’t ignore,” he said. “But we don’t have a full understanding yet about this pest. Are they attacking weakened trees or are they attacking healthy trees? How aggressive are they? How much damage do they do? Does it like any tree more than others?”

Area-wide management and collective consciousness efforts may be necessary

Chouvenc suggested that even though pest control companies can eliminate colonies on a house-to-house basis, if increasing structural damage is occurring in infested neighborhood trees, area-wide management could be a necessary solution, with entire neighborhoods cooperating, in addition to a “collective consciousness that maybe we have to do something on a larger scale than protecting our tiny half acre.”

Wondering if your trees are infested?

  • Homeowners can peel back a piece of dead outer bark to check for termites.
  • Cutting infested trees won’t get rid of your Asian termites, as they live underground.
  • Tenting isn’t a viable solution, as again, most of the colony lives underground.
  • Contacting a professional pest control company is your most sensible solution.

 Hulett’s Healthy Home approach

Termites, especially aggressive invasive species such as Asian and Formosan termites, should be handled by a trusted pest control professional. Hulett Environmental Services, a family-owned business with over 50 years of termite expertise in the South Florida area, offers a free termite inspection along with a wide range of solutions for your termite concerns. Our licensed and certified technicians assess your termite situation and develop a plan to eliminate termites from your home and property. Because subterranean termites live in extensive colonies under the ground outside your home, strategic placement of a non-repellant liquid that worker termites transport from the infested area back to their nests works effectively and quickly to kill queens and destroy colonies.

The very best way to fight termites is to prevent them from entering your home at all. Our Annual Termite Renewal Program wards off would-be invaders and we’re so sure of our Total Termite Protection Program that we offer a million dollar guarantee you’ll be satisfied with our services. Eliminate the stress of worrying about termites damaging your home and your trees. Just call Hulett!

South Florida: Outbreak of Yellow Fever in Brazil Concerns Health Officials Here

South Florida: Outbreak of Yellow Fever in Brazil Concerns Health Officials Here

As South Florida residents can tell you, mosquitoes come with the year-round warm weather that makes living in the Sunshine State so appealing. In addition to their annoying bites, mosquitoes also carry serious diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus and yellow fever, among other viral hemorrhagic infections.  These diseases can manifest in high fevers and chills, backaches, headaches, and loss of appetite, in addition to nausea and vomiting.  Yellow fever gets its name from the yellow tint evident in the eyes and skin associated with jaundice victims. Most yellow fever symptoms subside in a few days but the World Health Organization (WHO) website states that 15% of victims “will develop a second, more severe, stage of illness within the next two to 48 hours,” possibly advancing into jaundice and viral hepatitis, as well as liver or kidney failure.

Yellow fever outbreak in Brazil affecting areas not usually at risk

A yellow fever outbreak in Brazil that started in 2017 has expanded into areas not usually at risk for yellow fever. According to the WHO, from July 1, 2017 to Feb 16, 2018, “464 confirmed human cases of yellow fever have been reported in Brazil, including 154 deaths.” Unlike most seasons, a growing number of confirmed cases were reported in urban centers: “São Paulo (181 cases, including 53 deaths), Minas Gerais (225 cases, including 76 deaths), Rio de Janeiro (57 cases, including 24 deaths) and in the Federal District (1 fatal case).”

South Florida health officials concerned about travelers from Brazil

Health officials in South Florida are concerned that travelers from Brazil may be bringing the deadly virus into the US, through airports in Miami-Dade and Broward County. This is cause for concern, as while yellow fever isn’t contagious from human to human contact, infected people may transmit the virus via infected mosquitoes, from human to human. Most likely the same mosquito that caused the Zika virus outbreaks, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, can be infected by a person with the yellow fever virus and then can transmit the virus to other people.

While US outbreak “highly unlikely,” warmer parts of US are vulnerable to yellow fever

The Miami Herald reported that, even though it’s “highly unlikely” yellow fever outbreaks will occur in the continental United States, “the increase in domestic cases in Brazil and frequency of international travel could lead to travel-related cases occurring in warmer parts of the United States, in the Gulf Coast states, and outbreaks in Puerto Rico and other US territories.”

Traveling to Brazil not advisable without the vaccine

As far as traveling to Brazil, according to a March 26, Local 10 ABC News article, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 2 alert for people traveling to Brazil. This enhanced precaution alert advises that anyone traveling to Brazil should get vaccinated against yellow fever 10 days before traveling. The CDC also advises those who have never been vaccinated for yellow fever forego travel to Brazil at this time. Travelers should also be aware that the yellow fever vaccine is available in limited supply in the US, due to Brazil’s campaign to vaccinate as many people as possible in all Brazilian states. The Local 10 article stressed the importance of using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing in the way of long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants when outdoors, in addition to getting vaccinated before traveling to Brazil.

What about Zika?

As we begin to get ready for summer fun, many are wondering what ever happened to the threat posed by the Zika virus. Thankfully, for the most part, the Zika virus has disappeared from the Americas. In fact, according to the Pan American Health Organization, no additional countries have reported active local transmission of the disease since late 2016. The CDC’s provisional data is showing 424 symptomatic cases of Zika virus disease were reported in the US in 2017. However, to date in 2018, only one case of Zika virus disease has been recorded by health officials in the US and that was a traveler who was returning from an affected area. It seems as though there is no immediate threat of a Zika outbreak in the US but of course there is no guarantee so it is best to err on the side of caution and follow basic precautions across all of South Florida this summer.

Back in South Florida

What can you do to protect yourself and loved ones from getting infected by mosquitoes carrying yellow fever? Hulett Environmental Services outlines a few precautions you can take around your home and property to reduce your risk of mosquitoes.

Eliminate standing water on your property that can provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes

Some things you might not consider as breeding grounds for mosquitoes include:

  • Birdbaths
  • Swimming pool covers
  • Pet water bowls
  • Kids’ toys
  • Patio furniture
  • Extra potting containers for plants
  • Anything that can hold even just a small amount of water.

Storing toys and extra gardening containers in a dry, secure area can cut down on mosquito breeding grounds, in addition to changing the water in pet water bowls and birdbaths daily or by adding a fountain or drip system.

Eliminate water prone areas and repair screens on your property

  • Keep gutters clean and adjust downspouts for proper drainage.
  • Repair leaky outdoor faucets and any areas in your yard where water tends to puddle.
  • Repair or replace window and door screens to help keep mosquitoes out of your home.

Hulett Mosquito Reduction Services

These proactive mosquito prevention tips can help keep mosquitoes from ruining your backyard activities but if mosquitoes are still pestering you, they may be breeding someplace nearby that you can’t control or access. DIY methods and materials may help for a while. Most do-it yourself solutions, now that mosquitoes are showing resistance to citronella and DEET and other chemicals, really do not reduce mosquito populations but only mask human scents, it might be time to just call Hulett.

Hulett’s trained and certified pest control technicians can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in your home and yard. Schedule a free mosquito inspection and we will identify mosquito hiding places and potential breeding grounds. Then, we will treat those areas with a residual product, as well as applying a sticking agent to daytime mosquito resting places.

For those special outdoor events, Hulett Mosquito Fogging Services allows you to make the most of your backyard get-togethers and summer celebrations. Using ULV, or ultra-low volume foggers, mosquitoes can’t crash your party or cause a scene.

Don’t suffer from mosquitoes this summer. Protect your family and friends from disease-carrying mosquitoes. Remember the insect repellant, protective clothing and just call Hulett!

South Florida Exterminators can Conquer Pharaoh Ant Empires

South Florida ExterminatorsMonomorium pharaonis is the scientific name for one of South Florida’s more interesting pests. However, most people just refer to the creatures as pharaoh ants. Like the humans that they share a moniker with, these 1/12-inch long formicidae have been around for centuries. They have also been the target of our South Florida exterminators.

South Florida exterminator lore has it that the pharaoh ants got their name because of an erroneous connection to ancient Egypt’s insect plagues. Although these African natives didn’t participate in the plague, it doesn’t mean that they are not trouble with a capital T.

Pharaoh ants love to nest in hot, humid enclosed areas. So that makes them exceptionally fond of South Florida. Hot, humid homes are not their only nesting spots either. These South Florida pests have a penchant for medical facilities as well.

When they do infest medical facilities, it is not uncommon to see them drinking from blood plasma bags, IV bags or the mouths of sleeping humans. What makes such situations even more disturbing is that the ants are also known carriers of diseases. Some of the diseases connected to South Florida’s pharaoh ant population are streptococcus, salmonella and staphylococcus.

To add to the problem, once the pharaoh ants establish a nest, their numbers can grow quickly. Perhaps that is why they were once falsely associated with the plagues. How quickly can they reproduce? Well, each female, of which there may be more than 100 per nest, is capable of producing 400 eggs at a time. Those eggs are capable of turning into additional females in less than 40 days. So in as little as two months, a South Florida dwelling can literally become overrun with pharaohs.

The good news is that our South Florida exterminators know how to bring the pharaohs’ reign to a swift conclusion. To learn more about how they accomplish such a challenging feat, please contact us at (866) 611-2847.

Seeing Ghosts? South Florida Exterminators Can Help

South Florida ExterminatorsAs long time South Florida exterminators, we’ve seen our share of ants. We can also honestly say that the Sunshine State has some of the more interesting species of Formicidae in the United States. One of the more bizarre creatures is the ghost ant. South Florida exterminator legend has it that ghost ants started haunting areas of the Sunshine State back in the 1980s.

Ironically enough, it happened about the same as the arrival of a certain gigantic, paranormal marshmallow. At the time, his arrival captured more headlines. Of course now all of that has changed and it’s the ghost ants’ antics that are making the national news.

Just in case you have never seen a South Florida ghost ant before, they are typically less than 1.5 mm long and feature white gasters. That’s the scientific name used to identify the lower portions of their bodies. Their heads and upper bodies, on the other hand, are traditionally a dark brown or black. Believed to have originated overseas, they tend to smell like rancid coconut oil when you step on them.

Besides looking and smelling different that other South Florida ants, the ghosts have other claims to fame. For instance, they are known to share living space with spiders and ants outside of their species. They also enjoy eating honeydew melons, sugar water and other sweet treats.

In addition, the ghosts are exceptionally adept at promptly relocating and taking up residence in the tiniest of areas. Places that they will sometimes colonize are book bindings, motor vehicles, electrical outlets, window sill ledges and cracks in between a home’s baseboards. Subsequently, they can be very challenging to vanquish.

So, if you eventually end up with a house full of little ghosts and want to make them disappear, contact us online or call (866) 611-2847. Once you do, we’ll put Hulett Environmental Services’ South Florida exterminators to work for you.

South Florida Exterminators Discuss Region’s Termite Populations

As South Florida exterminators, we are often asked questions about our area’s termite populations. The questions understandably vary. However, some of them have to do with the various types (subterranean, dampwood and drywood) and species of termites found throughout the Sunshine State. That said, we thought that it might be helpful to briefly spotlight a few of the more common ones.

Subterranean Termites in South Florida

There are many species of termites that are considered subterranean. As you may have guessed, they live underground and use foraging tubes to access food sites. One of the most problematic ones found in South Florida is the Formosan. Originally from Asia, it first surfaced in Hallandale in the 1980s. Since that time, it has been eating its way across our fair state.

For the novice, their colonies can be hard to find. That’s because it is not uncommon for the creatures to travel 300 feet from their homestead to feast on South Floridian’s wooden structures. As such, quickly securing the services of a South Florida exterminator to eradicate them is strongly advised.

Termite Pest Control
Termite Pest Control

Drywood Termites in South Florida

Drywood termites also live in South Florida. They differ from subterranean termites in many respects, including where they establish their colonies. Unlike their underground cohorts, drywood species like to nest inside of drywood. They also tend to create modest homes and have much shorter foraging ranges. Species that may be found in Florida include the West Indian, western and southeastern.

Dampwood Termites in South Florida

It should also be noted that South Florida has a dampwood termite population as well. They are often found living in modest-size colonies located in damp areas. That is partially why it is so important for South Floridians to address any water related, structural damage quickly. Species that homeowners may encounter are neotermes luykxi and neotermes castaneus.

Tree Termites in South Florida

Lastly, we can’t forget South Florida’s tree termite population. Some Floridians may remember hearing about them surfacing in Dania Beach in the early 2000s. They are adept at quickly destroying trees and building large, above ground nests. Therefore, they also need to be eliminated quickly. Otherwise, extensive property damage may occur.

As we mentioned previously, the above is just a brief look at South Florida’s termite populations. To learn more, contact our South Florida exterminators at (866) 611-2847. We stand by our work and offer free termite inspections.