COLUMBUS, Ohio -- News spreading like wildfire that a destructive structural pest is hitching a ride in mulch beyond the Louisiana borders of hurricane-impacted areas is simply a rumor, says an Ohio State University Extension urban entomologist.
Susan Jones has been inundated with calls from the general public regarding concerns that termite-infested mulch (specifically of the Formosan subterranean termite) and other wood waste products are being transported from Louisiana parishes affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus, is a highly destructive, voracious pest that can cause serious damage to homes and other structures.
"No Formosan subterranean termites have been identified in Ohio from hurricane-impacted areas," said Jones. "A quarantine has been in place since October that forbids hurricane-impacted parishes in Louisiana to transport mulch, wood, or any other kind of wood waste outside their area. This material is being put into landfills."
Nonetheless, the exotic Formosan subterranean termite has been widely distributed via commerce. It is established in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. It is found in other states along the Gulf Coast that have not imposed a quarantine on the movement of wood. Hence, movement of this species is possible.
Furthermore, isolated groups of termites can survive and produce new reproductives, or offspring. "These neotenic reproductives are sexually mature, and they serve as replacement reproductives for the termite queen and king," she said.
Despite the rumors, Jones said that the information is a good reminder to homeowners to be aware of the potential spread of termites (native and exotic species) in landscaping timbers and mulch, particularly if these items have had previous contact with the soil. Subterranean termites nest in the soil, which provides an environment that satisfies termites' high moisture requirements.
"Mulch is a good food source for termites. Any species of termite, not just the Formosan subterranean termite, will feed on hardwood and softwood mulch," said Jones. "It's always a good idea to check mulch for termites when it is purchased."
For more information on termites and how to reduce risk of infestation, log on to http://ohioline.osu.edu and refer to Bulletin 1209 and Fact Sheet HYG-2092C-00.