Conehead termites, Nasutitermes corniger, are once again in the news. A nest the size of a “Toaster Oven” was found in Dania Beach near Tampa, Florida. This invasive species was first discovered in 2001 and efforts to contain and eradicate this temite are ongoing. How did it arrive in the US? Quite possibly the way many tree and wood pests arrive: in a wooden pallet shipped from its native range.
Entomlogist Barbara Thorne has studied, written about them and been involved with eradication efforts. The termites are tiny, about 1/8 inch long and establish cryptic colonies. Colonies are difficult to detect when small and may go unnoticed until they become large. An infested area must be monitored and large colonies destroyed every spring before the alates (winged males and females) disperse.
At this time, the Dania Beach population has remained local; there is no evidence that it has spread. Containment requires entomologists and responsible institutions to be constantly vigiliant. Conehead termites damage wood structures in their native range and are a threat to Florida homeowners. The cost of containment is a small compared to the potential cost of treatment and remediation of homes if this invasive termites spreads beyond the area.