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NO worries, we do not pressure our clients to sign up. Just 5 minutes on the phone, and you will have your quote. Dave’s Guarantee: we will give you the best price, or give you a free pest control service. Dave’s pest control offers retreat and retreat repair bonds for Formosan termite protection. These bonds are issued for liquid or baiting services. Termite bonds of this nature require a thorough inspection of the crawlspace and the attic. Please be sure to read the article from Birmingham new on this site.
Fierce, resilient Formosan termites gain foothold in Alabama’s Shelby County
A particularly fierce termite that can quickly chomp big chunks from a house if left unchecked appears to have settled into at least one area near Birmingham. Officials with a half-dozen Birmingham-area pest control companies say they’d each had a few cases of Formosan subterranean termites dating to 2004.
But this summer they report a total of at least a dozen incidences in which the pest has been found in or near homes or businesses. All the reports in recent years have come from in or near the north Shelby County area bounded by U.S. 280, U.S. 31, Valleydale Road and Alabama 119.
“It’s obvious they have a little bit of a foothold over in that area,” said Brian Ramay, branch manager for Orkin in Birmingham.
While it could take many years for native eastern subterranean termites to destroy a home, Formosans do it much more quickly. “They’ve been known to destroy a home in two years — completely,” said Greg Gwaltney, who is with Terminix in north Shelby.
Alabama is among at least 11 states where Formosan termites have been recorded, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Formosans cause about $1 billion a year in property damage, repairs and control measures each year, according to the USDA. Formosan termites are native to China and began appearing along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Texas in the mid-1960s, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. By the late 1980s they began showing up along the Alabama coast. Formosan termites need warm and moist conditions to thrive.
There are things residents can do to prevent subterranean termites, including Formosans, from getting into their homes, Baumann said.
- Reduce the amount of moisture around the home’s foundation.
- Repair dripping pipes and roof leaks.
- Keep firewood away from the home.
- Keep an eye on landscaping timber to see if there is any damage or tiny white bugs (worker termites).
- Keep gutter and downspouts clear so they don’t overflow.
- Avoid having wood on the house having contact with the ground.
“The weather in Alabama fits the needs of Formosans, the coast area in particular,” said Xing Ping Hu, associate professor of urban entomology at Auburn University. Hu said there’s been “a sharp increase” of infestations reported in inland counties this year. Formosan subterranean termites have larger colonies, are more aggressive and eat more than the native eastern subterranean termites common to Alabama, Hu said.
Infestations on the Rise
Orkin’s Ramay said his office has received three confirmed calls of Formosan termites this year and is looking at another possible one. That may sound like a small number, he said, but considering the company had two last year and one in 2006, it seems to be increasing, he said. All the cases Orkin had were Formosan termites found outside homes, Ramay said. That hasn’t been the case everywhere.
Gwaltney, of Terminix, said his company has found two homes infested with Formosans that required about $155,000 in repairs since last year. Glenn Stephens, a retired editor at The Birmingham News, said his family had to move into a hotel because of Formosan termites. Stephens said he and his wife were sitting in the den of his Meadow Brook home reading and watching television around late May last year when they first noticed a problem. “We saw these little bugs flying around. I didn’t know what they were. … Our cat saw them and drew our attention to them,” he said. Stephens said he captured three in a small bottle.
He called Terminix and a representative came out and later determined the bugs were Formosan termites. “I didn’t realize how serious the situation was,” he said. The back deck and siding, flooring in all but two of the bedrooms, a number of floor joists, two front bay windows and a back bay window were all replaced by a company hired by Terminix, Stephens said. Recently Stephens captured another Formosan termite and the company came out and retreated the home, he said. “It was kind of a surreal experience,” Stephens said. “I never realized termites could cause that much damage and apparently that quickly. The house had been inspected each of the three previous years.”
Fred Smith, general manager at Vulcan Termite Pest Control, said his company had one customer who found Formosans inside and two other cases where they were found outside homes, all in the northern Shelby County area. Tim Kendrick, service center leader at Wayne’s Environmental Services Riverchase location, said they had a couple of cases two years ago and one outside swarm next to a house reported so far this year.
Why so far north?
“Supposedly they’re not supposed to be this far north,” Kendrick said. So how are Formosans moving north? “Generally speaking, they are hitching a ride,” said Greg Baumann, vice president and senior scientist with the National Pest Management Association, a trade association based in Fairfax, Va. Baumann and other experts say the Formosans are believed to be transported from coastal areas in infested railroad ties used for landscaping, in mulch, even in the roots of transplanted trees.
The termites form colonies made up of a king, queen, workers, soldiers and swarmers that fly off to reproduce and form other colonies. Like other subterranean termites, Formosans depend on moisture and are treatable with the same chemicals applied around the base of homes to kill native termites. But the Formosan termites often get into the walls and upper parts of homes and build nests called “cartons,” Gwaltney said. The nests become so damp from saturated fecal matter that the Formosan termites don’t have to go back into the ground to get moisture like the native subterranean termites, Gwaltney said. That often makes soil treatment with termiticides ineffective for Formosans, he said. It also makes Formosans harder to spot.
Gwaltney said tell-tale signs are stains on walls, peeling paint, mud on inside walls and buckling of plywood, siding or floors. “The best thing to do is to call a termite pest control professional and let them do an inspection on your home,” Gwaltney said.
Subtle differences distinguish the look of the Formosan termites from the native subterranean termites. The head of the Formosan soldier is teardrop-shaped and the native subterranean soldier is rectangular. But the quickest way to distinguish Formosans is the timing of their swarms. The native subterranean termites generally swarm during the middle of the day in the early spring, and the Formosans swarm in early evening during late spring and early summer and are attracted to lights.
If there is damage, many residents may have to pay for repairs out of their own pockets unless they have a termite bond that covers Formosan termites, experts say. “Most homeowners insurance policies exclude insect damage,” Baumann said. And some termite treatment or termite bonds also may exclude Formosans or have limits on repairs for termite damage. “The best thing a consumer can do is contact the company to see what kind of coverage they do have,” Ramay said.
Auburn’s Hu is working on research projects involving Formosans, including an effort to understand the physiological and behavioral mechanisms of the Formosan surviving cold winters in north Alabama. She’s also working on ways to attract the Formosan termites to bait stations with pesticide. But Hu is disappointed that the state isn’t getting enough money for research. “Among all the states infested by this termite, Alabama is the only one with no support for research and education either from the federal or the state government,” Hu said. Other states are either included in the federally financed “Operation Full Stop” program to combat the Formosan termite or have special state funding set aside for research. “The termites get their way to spread inland and northward easily,” Hu said. “Alabama is serving like a Formosan reservoir.”