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Why Are Termite Infestation Cases Increasing In Southeast Texas?

Several destructive termite species exist within every region of Texas, but cities in the southeast near the Gulf Coast have been seeing a dramatic rise in termite infestations over the past few years. Last summer it was reported that the invasive Formosan termite species had been establishing colonies within new areas of Houston and Galveston. During 2017, San Antonio and surrounding towns saw a whopping increase in termite infestation cases within homes and buildings. Infestation cases also exploded in other southeastern cities during 2017. That same year, San Antonio was ranked as the second most termite-infested city in the United States. And earlier this year, two Texas cities, Tyler-Longview and Dallas, made the top ten list of most termite infested cities in America. Last month entomologists and pest control professionals in Texas claimed that the southeastern portion of the state will soon see frequent and large sized termite swarms. The increase in termite swarms and infestation rates in southeast Texas is due to a few factors. First of all, Formosan subterranean termites are still spreading to new areas of Texas, mostly in the east and southeast region of the state. Climatic conditions, particularly short mild winters and frequent rainfall, are also contributing to the termite explosion within the state.

Native subterranean termites typically swarm during the late winter and early spring seasons in Texas, but a cold winter and a lack of rainfall may have postponed their seasonal swarms. Formosan subterranean termites typically swarm toward the beginning of May in Texas, and considering the growing Formosan termite population in the southeast region, cities like Houston, Galveston, Baytown and even San Antonio are likely to see frequent and massively sized Formosan termite swarms in about two weeks from now. Formosan subterranean swarms are known for being relatively sizable, as their colonies contain up to 50 million termites, which is far more than the mere 50,000 that can exist within a native termite colony.

Do you think that 2019 will see a record amount of termite infestation cases in Texas?

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What attracts termites and prevention tips provided by iPest Solutions

What attracts termites and prevention tips provided by iPest Solutions

This year, iPest Solutions and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) are working to spread public awareness about termites during Termite Awareness Week, March 10-16, 2019. With spring just around the corner, termites will begin swarming and could seek out your home for their new nesting space. To help you prevent a termite infestation,  iPest Solutions is educating homeowners on three things they could be doing to attract termites.

“The damage caused by termites typically goes unnoticed by homeowners until it has advanced too far, as most of their work happens behind the scenes and out of sight from the human eye. In fact, the NPMA estimates that termites cause $5 billion in damage every year,” said John Fell,  CEO at iPest Solutions “While termites can be difficult to control, homeowners could also be unaware of a few things they could be doing to attract these wood-destroying pests.”

According to NPMA, here are three unexpected ways that homeowners can actually make their homes more appealing to termites:

  1. Storing firewood too close to property: Many homeowners keep firewood stacked against their home or on the stoop for easy access. This is appealing to termites and can draw them toward a home and provide a point of entry. Instead, store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off the ground. Also, be careful of leaving stumps and dead trees in the yard. Rotting wood material can serve as termite fuel and eventually result in termites entering the home.
  2. Clogged gutters: Cleaning the gutters is a necessary part of termite prevention. Termites love moisture and clogged gutters can cause water to pool and make insulation vulnerable to these wood-destroying pests.
  3. Mulch: Mulch is frequently used near the home and against the foundation and can serve as a source of food for termites. It also retains moisture, which attracts these destructive pests. Minimize the usage of wood mulch and keep it at least 15 inches from the foundation.

“If you suspect you have a termite infestation, it is best to contact a licensed pest control expert as soon as possible to catch the damage before it gets worse,” added Fell.  “We recommend homeowners also have a termite inspection done every year.”

For more information on termites, or to contact a licensed pest control expert, please visit www.wacopest.com

Are The Desert Termites Of Texas Considered Pests?

More than a dozen termite species dwell within the arid and semi-arid southwest US region. These termites are mostly subterranean species, but a few drywood species have also established a habitat within the region. Termites are the most well known of the few insect groups that consume wood. Considering that termites inflict billions of dollars in damage annually within the US alone, it should not be lost on anyone that termites are destructive to timber-framed homes and some species inflict damage to tree species as well. The high cost of termite damage certainly does not make termites endearing creatures, but if there is one termite species dwelling within America that is worth being spared the hate that so many people feel toward termites, then it would definitely be the  Gnathamitermes tubiformans, or the desert termite, as they are more commonly known. Although these termites dwell within Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, they are particularly abundant within the expansive grassy savanna region of western Texas.

Unlike most termite species within the US, desert termites are not structural pests. In fact, desert termites don’t even consume wood, if that can be conceived; instead, desert termites consume both living and dried forms of vegetation, mostly grass and legumes. Desert termites are notable for consuming massive amounts of grass, far more than livestock consume within the state. Amazingly, during this species’ most active period from May through September in Texas, up to six percent of shortgrass grazeland can become covered in carton tubes created by these termites. These carton tubes become particularly abundant during dry seasons and on areas of overgrazed land. Although desert termites are certainly not structural pests, they can reduce the amount of food available to livestock. Desert termites can also be a nuisance to homeowners in residential and rural areas of Texas, as their seasonal swarms can become overwhelming and can occur within homes. For example, residents of Lubbock were forced to endure long periods of heavy desert termite swarming activity during the summer of 2017.

Do you know of any other termite species that is considered harmless to structures in the US?

 

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A Historically Significant And Rare Antique Pump Organ Was Barely Saved From Voracious Termites

A Historically Significant And Rare Antique Pump Organ Was Barely Saved From Voracious TermitesWaco Termite Control

Although church attendance has been declining during recent decades, most people still cannot help but to associate organ music with the church-going experience. Christian churches have long made use of organ music during group choirs and at the beginning and end of church services. When the modern pipe organ was in its infancy, the music was enjoyed as a secular form of entertainment, but the large instruments eventually came to be associated with the Catholic Church. However, pipe organs can now be found within many Christian churches. As you may already know, pipe organs are the largest musical instruments, so they are not always ideal for use in small chapels. Luckily for organ-lovers, a smaller and much cheaper version of the pipe organ was developed and sold within the United States and Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These organs produced sound through reeds, as opposed to pipes. These organs are known as pump organs, or reed organs, and they were common in people’s homes and small churches during the last two centuries. However, the invention of the electronic organ during the 1930s resulted in the eventual discontinuation of pump organ manufacturing. Today pump organs are rare, and most of them that still exist have been restored by antique collectors. Not surprisingly, pump organs are considered valuable relics of the past that can sell for significant amounts of money. Sadly, one of the world’s most well-known pump organs sustained serious termite damages while being displayed in an old chapel located in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Back in 1984, an Etsy-brand pump organ that was built in 1890 had been donated to the newly built Mission Chapel that was, and still is, located on the premises of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Honolulu. Although the pump organ was well cared for after it was donated, years of humidity and pests had rendered the instrument unplayable, and structurally compromised. The most recent, and only successful attempt at restoring the pump organ involved a piece-by-piece disassembly, and many portions of replacement wood. The restoration effort lasted for an entire year, and termite damage beneath the organ’s keys nearly made the instrument a total loss. Each of the sixty one keys had to be replaced as they were all damaged by termites. After many prayers, the restoration attempt proved to be a success, and the refurbished pump organ can now be heard in all of its glory by tourists visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Do you think that the conditions within the wooden pump organ provided the invading termites with all of the sustenance and nourishment that they needed to survive?

Prehistoric Cultures Associated Termites With Women

Humans have existed on earth for around 200,000 years. Around 60,000 years ago, humans first began to migrate out of Africa. Given this long span of time, it is surprising to learn that humans only began farming around 10,000 BCE. As you can imagine, the discovery of agriculture revolutionized how humans lived and even how humans evolved. Many evolutionary biologists believe that agriculture was discovered by women. Agricultural duties were also largely carried out by women while men hunted wild game. Women’s responsibility for agricultural food production and collection accorded them great power of a divine sort, as the mechanisms behind agricultural production were considered to be magical in nature. It was believed that women controlled agricultural food production by applying their own powers of reproduction to the soil that makes up earth. Based on this belief, fertile termite mounds came to represent the divine powers that females were believed to possess. More specifically, termite mounds became a cult symbol of the earth mother goddess in regions of India where agriculture was first practiced.

Waco Termite Control

Even during the pre-agricultural period, it was believed that women channeled their own reproductive powers into earth by means of termite mounds. It was discovered early on that the soil that makes up termite mounds was more fertile than surrounding types of soil. During the neolithic era, termite mounds were far more abundant within the landscape than they are now, and mounds would often sprout vegetation while surrounding areas of soil would not. The divine power of fertility that termite mounds were believed to possess led prehistoric peoples to build entire villages around termite-rich landscapes. Another prehistoric legend put forth the idea that termite mounds contained the seeds of protector gods. Thousands of years ago, newly married women would worship termite mounds and the soil would be taken from the mound and offered up as a gift to the groom’s family. Termite mound soil was even believed to hold the magical powers that made conception possible. This is why pregnant women continue to literally consume soil from termite mounds to this very day in many regions of India.

Have you ever visited a country where termite hills are considered sacred?

 

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Ask the Pest Professor: Termites vs. Ants

What’s the difference between termites and flying ants? Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association, explains!

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How Have Formosan Subterranean Termites Traveled To Regions Well Outside Of Their Habitat Range?

If you live in the United States, especially the southeast, then there is a good chance that you have heard of the termite species commonly known as Formosan subterranean termites. These termites are unique in how tremendously damaging they are to timber-framed homes and other structures. In fact, these termites are considered by experts to be the most damaging species of termite in existence. Formosan termites are also well known to people living in other countries around the world, especially China where the termites are native. Since the southeast was hit with several hurricanes this year, there has been much talk in the media about how hurricanes seem to increase the number of homes infested with termites. It has been theorized that hurricanes and the flood waters that result literally wash termites into homes. Now that Hurricane Florence has subsided, and the resultant floodwaters are receding, cleanup crews are finding numerous structures that have become infested with Formosan subterranean termites. Not only do these findings confirm that hurricanes can, indeed, result in an increase in termite infestations, but hurricanes are causing many more types of termite-related issues that had not been considered before.

While it would seem that termites would be unable to survive hurricanes and floods, the fact is that termites can survive underwater for as long as 20 hours. Termites can drown if floodwaters persist for days, but most survive. After all, subterranean termites can survive 30 feet below the ground for long periods. Flood waters can literally carry Formosan termites to new locations where they had not existed before, and the plant debris that is abundant in flood waters provides termites with plenty of sustenance. Formosan termites that infest trees can survive on tree debris floating in floodwaters. Not only this, but after hurricanes and floods, cleanup workers collect massive amounts of wood debris from structures that are often saved and transported for second-hand use in other states. Since this wood debris is piled up, it does not take long for Formosan termites to spread to the entire pile. This is especially true when it comes to Formosans, as their colonies contain tens of millions of individual termites that reproduce rapidly. For example, several years ago, wood that had been infested with Formosans were transported to other states to be used as railroad ties. This practice led to the establishment of Formosans in Atlanta, where they had never been found before. Also, in Louisiana, where Formosans are at their most abundant, local sawmills had become infested. These sawmills produced sawdust-waste that people used for mulch. Of course, this also spread the insects beyond their habitat range. Due to the risk of transporting termite-infested wood after hurricanes and floods, experts are recommending that all wood debris collected should be heat treated before being transported to other states.

Do you think that people are not inclined to consider termite issues after hurricanes and floods given the amount of problems that they already face after floods and hurricanes?

Termite Signs: Mud Tube Formation

Termite Colonies Were Once Regarded As Perfect Societies That Should Be Replicated By Humans

Insect behaviors vary tremendously from species to species, and these behaviors have been a source of fascination among people for thousands of years. The peculiarities of their behavior have prompted scientists and thinkers of all ages into studying the nature of insects. Although insects do not stand in close relation to humans on the evolutionary tree, there are some species that closely resemble humans in their group behavior. Social insects, like bees, wasps, ants and termites, show a remarkable degree of group cooperation that seems incongruous with their primitive state. The similarities between insect colonies and human societies became a topic of inquiry among European naturalists during the early modern era. It could be argued that no other type of social insect has been compared to humans as much as termites have. The extraordinary feats in which termites are capable has been highly regarded by scientists and social theorists for hundreds of years.Waco Termite Control

In 1781, a leading natural scientist, Henry Smeathman, touted termites as being “foremost on the list of the wonders of creation.” Smeathman granted termites this high praise due to the human-like behaviors that the insects demonstrate. Smeathman described his high regard for termites in a report he wrote for the Royal Society. This report detailed the insects as having mastered industry and even government. It is no surprise that this report was written at a time in history when the unique abilities of mankind, such as thought and artistic mastery, were regarded with a newfound sense of reverence.

During the early 1900’s, Russian thinker, Peter Kropotkin, referred to the efficiency of a termite colony as a model for the ideal communist society. For Kropotkin, the willingness with which termite workers labor for the greater good of their colonies should be mimicked by human laborers in a communist state. However, some modern thinkers have referred to termites negatively when describing the possible consequences that could result from the blind obedience of the great majority within communist societies. For example, during the 1920’s, an American entomologist, William Wheeler, believed that selfless state-servitude could ultimately reduce humans to unintelligent, yet efficient, beings, much like termites. Wheeler believed that humanity would not be able to evolve beyond such a societal state. If humans were to become selflessly compliant to the needs of the state, in the same way termites serve their colony, then the greatest human achievements, such as art and scholarship, would cease to exist. Nowadays, it would seem unthinkable to regard termites as virtuous models of what human beings could be become.

Have you ever found anything in a insect’s nature that is worth emulating?