The Asian Siberian Termite, Coptotermes gestroi is one of the most destructive termites in Asia. Coptotermes gestroi and its close relative, the Formosan termite, Coptotermes formosanus are the most destructive termites in Southeast Asia. They eat any form of cellulose, wood or paper and are known to tunnel structural timbers undetected from the inside until collapse. These termites will also tunnel into the heartwood of trees causing them to topple in high winds.
Coptotermes gestroi has been collected in Florida since 1996. The termites are known to infest the timbers of wooden boats, allowing the termites to sail around the world. Since 2009, the termites have been in the island of Fiji and the government is coordinating efforts to contain the invasive termites and slow their spread. At this time of year, the termite colonies produce male and female reproductives- termites with wings. The alate (winged) adults swarm out of their nests, mate and land to start new colonies. Unfortunately for homeowners, the termites are attracted to lights. Homeowners who leave their lights on can attract numerous mating pairs of termites, the equivalent of turning on the vacancy light in the termite motel.
One strategy for controlling the termites is to enforce a blackout at dusk when all homeowners turn the lights out. Small bonfires are lit in hopes of attracting the termites to the light of the fire and a crispy death. In addition, sprays of pesticides and termite baits are used strategically to control the population.
The blackout/bonfire strategy is interesting but is it effective? It would be interesting to know. Like so many invasive species, once they are established, it is people and the ecosystem that must adapt to the invaders. Successful eradication is rare.