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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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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?

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Termite Activity In Soil Was Once Regarded As “Ecological Magic”

Termites may be relatively boring insects, but people have marveled over the size and intricacy of termite mounds for thousands of years. In the west, most people consider termites to be insect pests that can inflict expensive damages to buildings and houses. While this attitude may not be unfair, people living in Africa view termites a bit differently. Africa contains the greatest abundance of termite species, and it is somewhat commendable to see how African people have made use of termites over the centuries. Not only are termites valued for their nutritional quality in Africa, but the awe-inspiring beauty of tall and equally spaced termite mounds within spacious African fields cannot be denied by any visiting westerner. In fact, termite mounds are considered one of the most fascinating features of African safaris. In addition to being tall and castle-like in appearance, termite mounds are made of uniquely fertile forms of soil that allow for the growth of edible mushrooms and many different forms of vegetation. Considering that termite mounds provide the only forms of edible vegetation and fungi within otherwise excessively barren and dry deserts, it is no wonder why so many African people have, and still do, consider termite mounds to be an example of “ecological magic.”Waco Termite Control

Not all termite species build mounds. Only the termite sub-family known as Macrotermitinae can create mounds. These termites gather various forms of plant matter for sustenance, and this plant matter is stored within specific chambers contained within their mounds. In order to make this plant matter easier to digest, termites wait for fungi to grow over their stored piles of collected plant matter. This fungi grows significantly after bouts of rain. It does not take long for the fungi to grow through the tops of termite mounds, making them clearly visible. This type of fungus is known as the Termitomyces mushroom, and this mushroom has been consumed by African natives for centuries. The food-providing capacities of termite mounds have long been considered a form of magic by female shamans. The African religious cults of Santeri, Renuka and Yellamma worship an earth goddess known as Roen or Santeri. This earth goddess is illustrated on religious emblems as a five-hooded serpent emerging from a womb. These religious cults call this emblem “Nagakashtha.” Many religious scholars believe that the Nagakashta originated from the image of immature mushrooms protruding from the tops of termite mounds. This is one of many reasons why termite mounds serve as symbols of female fertility in African cultures.

Do you think that the American attitude toward termites would be more positive if mound-building termites existed in the United States?

 

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Why Do Some Modern Eastern Cultures Continue To Worship Termites In Spite Of Their Pest Status?

In the past people may have regarded termites as nothing more than undesirable pests. However, now we know that termites provide essential ecological services that humans could not live without. Therefore, while termites will always be structural pests, everyone in the world can agree that they are not all bad. It is hard to imagine anyone liking termites for any reason other than their ability to convert dead plant matter into soil-enriching particles. However, in many parts of the world, termites are highly thought of as having spiritual or religious value.Waco Termite Control

Some of you may know that past cultures considered termites to be good omens. Rarely were termites thought of as evil entities, like snakes and many insect species. This is not necessarily hard to believe, as centuries ago, mass home construction projects and large scale residential areas were not yet a thing. In other words, when termites were accorded spiritual value by past cultures, there were no homes for termites to destroy. However, it is hard to reconcile modern people worshipping termites considering their long association with property and crop destruction in just about every corner of the world. Also, given the state of modern scientific understanding, it would seem silly to associate termites with positive notions of spirituality. Despite, our current understanding of how termites function in nature, many modern groups of people living in various Asian nations continue to apply ritual significance to termites and termite mounds.

It is hard to blame some modern cultures for not abandoning their spiritual beliefs concerning termite mounds, after all, termite mounds can reach thirty feet in height, making them awe-inspiring structures. The largest groups of people who treat termites with spiritual or religious significance live in Asian countries. Some modern people living in Thailand, Malaysia, China and Singapore worship termite mounds to this day.

In Malaysia, where termite mounds are abundant in residential areas, some religious groups believe that spiritual guardians build and reside within inactive termite mounds. One mound-dwelling guardian is known as “Keramat.” In some neighborhoods, locals will protect inactive termite mounds from destruction by building shrines around them. In the Hokkian dialect, Keramat is known as “Datok Kong.” Worshippers of Datok Kong pray to termite mounds in order to attain good health, protection and good luck, sometimes with the hopes of winning the lottery. Interestingly, Chinese villagers acquired their belief in Keramat from previous settlers that practiced Islam. It is likely that Islamic mystics inhabiting China during the 16th century also prayed in front of inactive termite mounds for similar reasons.

Are you surprised that termite mounds are so highly regarded in urbanized areas where termite infestations must be a problem?

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The Egyptian Government May Not Be Able To Combat Destructive Termite Invasions In The Country

Termites cause massive amounts of destruction in the United States, as any American well knows. However, relatively speaking, America is home to a small amount of termite species. Termites are far more abundant on the continents of Asia and Africa. Africa is currently home to the greatest amount of termites when compared to all other continents. This is not so surprising considering the current termite troubles that many residents of several Egyptian cities are now experiencing. Two cities in particular are seeing termite-damaged houses that are near collapse. In the cities of Luxor and Aswan, termite invasions are endangering many families as the result of a large scale termite invasion. According to Abdel Wahab Fakhry, a Nubian resident, the invading termites are successfully bringing down houses because many of them are built with dead plant matter, such as palm trunks and leaves. Since these homes are created with cellulose-rich materials, they make for easy targets for cellulose-hungry termites. Although the destruction caused by termites in many Egyptian cities has reached a new high, termite-related problems have been occurring in Egyptian cities for years now.

For years termites have been eating everything available to them in Egypt’s largest cities including ceramics and entire housing floors. However, the amount of termite destruction in Egypt has skyrocketed recently as a result of the suspension of government ministries in the country, most importantly the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture is tasked with eradicating country wide termite infestations with pesticides, but many residents believe these pesticides are too weak. A lack of eradication campaigns has caused many homes to lose their roofs to termites, and termites are even destroying people’s kitchen wear and furniture items. Luckily, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly has recently ordered the Agricultural Ministry and the Governor of Luxor to eradicate termites from the city and nearby areas. So far, this eradication campaign has been a success, as 40 houses in Arment, 9 houses in Esna, 10 houses in al-Toud center and 6 houses in al-Qurna have been treated for termite infestations.

Do you believe that the region’s high heat is the reason for the recent termite infestations?