Asian subterranean termites are at it again. Last year, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) published a study predicting that invasive Asian and Formosan subterranean termites were on track to threaten infestation of half the structures in South Florida by 2040. The study also suggested that these two aggressive species may form a hybrid super termite due to warming climates that could see Asian and Formosan termites swarming at the same time.

UF study raises concerns about termites weakening trees in hurricanes

Adding to the concern over destructive invasive termites, in March, a UF/IFAS study published in the journal, Florida Entomologist revealed that not only are South Florida homes and businesses at risk of infestation but that Asian termites have apparently been helping themselves to slash pine trees and live oaks, as well. Getting wind of this study, as the hurricane season approaches, Hulett emphasizes the importance of maintaining preventative termite renewal plans for South Florida business and homeowners.

Termites slowly kill slash pines by cutting off vascular system

According to Deborah Strange's May 20 St. Augustine Record article, Asian subterranean termites can't eat the sappy core of slash pines, so instead, these pests consume the dead wood on the outer ring, "girdling and eventually killing it," by cutting off the tree's vascular system. In the case of live oaks, Asian termites hollow out the insides of the giant trees, not killing them, but weakening them. Last year, three large live oaks toppled in Hurricane Irma. "Some trees that had fallen had been eaten from the inside by these termites," Chouvenc said.

Concerns for wildlife habitats from a direct hurricane hit

Slash pines and live oaks, along with other native Florida trees, create a natural canopy for birds and other wildlife populations in South Florida. Asian subterranean termite activity on South Florida wildlife habitats, in combination with direct hits from hurricanes and tropical storms, possess the potential to restructure or, worst case scenario, "irreversibly alter the urban forest composition." Since most of South Florida hasn't experienced a direct hit from a hurricane in 12 or 13 years, entomologists suspect Asian termites may have weakened and killed so many trees that a direct hit could see slash pines disappear from the South Florida landscape. Losing live oaks can destroy whole ecosystems, as well.

Study focused on Ft. Lauderdale slash pine trees and live oaks

The study, created by Thomas Chouvenc, Assistant Professor of Urban Entomology, along with former UF student, Jeremiah Foley, revealed that Asian subterranean termites are responsible for felling slash pines and weakening other trees, such as live oaks. Conducted in the Ft. Lauderdale area, the team found that since 2013, Asian termites killed 12% of the slash pines in residential areas, in addition to 3% in area parks. Additionally, the study found 46% of residential pines showed infestation, along with 15% of all park trees.

Asian subterranean termites introduced to the US in 1996

These invasive pests were first recorded in the US, in Miami in 1996, in fact. Since then, they have become "a major structural pest," Chouvenc said. "It's becoming a new norm in some of these areas," he added. Asian subterranean termites are found from the Florida Keys to Miami and West Palm Beach.

Asian and Formosan termites live in the ground near structures

Asian and Formosan subterranean termites, much more aggressive and destructive than native species, live in colonies in the ground around your home. With colonies numbering in the millions, these pests will attack anything containing wood as well as plastic and metal to get at wood sources.

Preventive measures are called for to protect trees

While Chouvenc admits, "There's not an easy way to prevent termites from taking over your trees".  He wants to study preventive measures and improve remedial solutions. For homeowners, the best way to deal with Asian subterranean termites is to prevent them from getting into your home. Hulett stresses, once again, the necessity to get your home on a termite protection program and renew your contract annually to protect your most valuable possession.

Hulett's Total Termite Protection

Termites, especially Asian and Formosan termites should be addressed by certified and licensed pest control professionals. A family-owned business with over 50 years of experience, Hulett Environmental Services, with over three generations in termite technology expertise in the South Florida area offers a free termite inspection, along with a wide range of solutions for your termite concerns. Our qualified technicians assess your home for termite activity and develop a plan to eliminate termites from your home and property. Get on board with the fight to protect your home and property from termites, this hurricane season. Just Call Hulett!