Formosan "Super Termite" Found In Palm Beach, Martin And St. Lucie Counties; New

Published: March 17 1999


FORT LAUDERDALE—New Formosan “super termite” infestations in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties indicate the pest is spreading at an alarming rate throughout the state, says a University of Florida termite expert.

He recommends aggressive new community-based programs to control the pest in neighborhoods and municipalities.

“Populations of this destructive termite should be treated like a contagious disease,” said Nan-Yao Su, entomologist with the UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“If we don’t step up our control measures, the Formosan termite could become firmly established throughout the state, probably within 20 to 30 years. The problem in some Florida communities could eventually become like the one in New Orleans, where more than 90 percent of the buildings in the French Quarter are infested.”

Su said the new infestations in Palm Beach Gardens are about 45 miles north of the nearest known Formosan sites in Fort Lauderdale, and the Jensen Beach infestation is another 35 miles north of that. He said it’s safe to assume the pest also has found its way into neighboring St. Lucie county.

The new infestations likely are caused by people accidentally moving infested materials, Su said. Swarming season runs from April through July.

First identified in Dade and Broward counties in 1980, the Formosan termite was found in the Orlando and Pensacola areas in 1985. Su said the pest is now “firmly established” in Orlando, where new infestations have been found every year. In Tampa, Formosan termites were found in residential areas near the international airport in 1991, and they are established in nearby Temple Terrace.

He said experience has shown that treating individual homes or properties likely is not enough to stop the pest.

“Basically, if one homeowner controls the pest and the guy down the street doesn’t do anything, there still could be a serious termite problem in the neighborhood,” Su said. “These subterranean termites roam far from their underground nests, and treated properties may be easily reinfested by nearby populations.”

“That’s why we need to start community-based management programs to eliminate Formosan termite colonies over wider areas — not just from single homes or buildings but from entire neighborhoods and municipalities.”

John Mangold, technical specialist with Terminix International in Clearwater, said attempts to control Formosan termites with various soil termiticides failed in one Tampa home, but the pest finally was brought under control with a new hexaflumuron chemical bait system developed by Su. The treated house has remained termite-free since 1993, but other homes in the neighborhood are now infested with Formosan termites.

“This means there are other active underground colonies in the neighborhood, and the treatment area needs to be expanded beyond just one home,” he said.

Su, based at UF’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, said the community-based approach is being used in New Orleans and could be used in Florida to stop the pest before it spreads.

For the past six years, Su has also worked with the National Park Service to protect national treasures from termite damage. Infestations at the Statue of Liberty in New York and other historic landmarks, including the Cabildo and Presbytere in New Orleans’ French Quarter, are being controlled for the first time with his termite bait system.

He said conventional termite treatments may temporarily keep the pest out of buildings but they don’t control termite colonies in the ground. Unlike traditional barrier control methods, the baiting system eliminates underground colonies of both native subterranean and Formosan termites. The system uses pesticide only when termite activity is detected.

Monitoring devices, placed in the ground, contain pieces of wood. When termites begin feeding on the wood, it is removed and replaced with the hexaflumuron bait that slowly kills off the entire underground colony. Once the colony has been killed, the system remains in place to detect any future termite activity.



Chuck Woods


Nan-Yao Su