Entomologists in Florida are once again battling the tree termite, Nasutitermes corniger. The tree termite is a native of the Caribbean that first appeared in Florida in 2001. Eradication was accomplished in 2003, but the problem has reemerged. Is it a failure to eradicate a decade ago? Or is this a new introduction? This is one of the questions to be answered. The termite was thought to have arrived in solid wood packing material (wood shipping pallets) in 2001.
Although headlines describe it as a “Dangerous” termite, the primary danger is damage to landscapes and buildings. Unlike the more familiar subterranean termites, the tree termites build nests above ground with the queen in the center of the nest. They occasionally make nests on the sides of houses. The termites will feed on living trees as well as dead wood. Like other Nasutitermes species, Nasutitermes corniger lacks the large mandibles present in most termite species. Nasutitermes species have soldiers with “nozzle heads” that can spray enemies with toxic chemicals, including pinene and limonene.
Eradication attempts are again underway. The current infestation has all been located within about a mile of the site of the original infestation. Nasutitermes corniger colonies produce winged reproductives in the spring that can disperse and establish new colonies at large distances from the nest. The Florida Department of Agriculture hopes to eradicate the infestation before it spreads. Eradication may be possible while the population is small. If it spreads, residents will be affected by these termite invaders for years to come.
Money quote from an affected homeowner (Sun-Sentinel):
They got into the tool shed and ate our stack of firewood. We went to pick it up and there was no wood left.
Hopefully, the homeowners were not taking their firewood on camping trips and potentially moving the termites to new locations.