Florida is home to an alarming number of invasive species — and now two of the Sunshine State’s most destructive pests have generated a new pest that will leave homeowners shaking in their boots. University of Florida scientists have discovered that Formosan and Asian termites have mated and produced a hybrid termite that can cause more damage than its parents.
What’s the 411 on Formosan and Asian termites?
Formosan and Asian termites are subterranean termites that are not native to the United States. They were most likely brought over on trade ships and have been happily proliferating in the tropical Florida climate for many years. On their own, these two termite species are very destructive. These wood-munching pests have contributed to the millions of dollars in property damage caused by termites every year. Formosan termites are particularly challenging to manage because their colonies are gigantic. A single formosan termite colony can have millions of termites that forage as far as 300 feet from their nest.
What’s the big deal about this hybrid termite?
Formosan and Asian termites don’t usually swarm and mate at the same time, but within the last couple years, conditions were just right in Fort Lauderdale for both species to swarm simultaneously. After University of Florida scientists discovered that these termites were swarming together, they brought them back to the lab and were astonished to see the two species mate and reproduce. The resulting hybrid termite species colonized quickly; in fact sometimes twice as quickly as its parents. This means that this hybrid termite or "super-termite" could cause even more damage in a shorter period of time.
Should I worry?
Don’t start freaking out yet. Scientists are not sure if the hybrid termites will be able to reproduce or if they are sterile. It can take a few years for the super-termite colony housed in the lab to grow big enough to produce the reproductive swarmers known as alates. They are also not sure what kind of climate these hybrid termites may prefer and if they may spread beyond Florida. You can relax, for now — but definitely keep this hybrid termite on your radar.
If you think you have termites, ask a pest management expert to come and identify the species. It’s important to know the species as each type of termite has a different treatment method that’s tailored to the pest’s behavior. For tips on prevent termite check out this blog.
Thumbnail and header photo courtesy of the NPMA.