Asian termites on the move, new threat to parts of South Florida

PEANUT ISLAND, Fla. - Homeowners and business owners beware of a new threat... Asian termites.

Experts say they are relatively new to our area.

"We've noticed a major uptick in the number of termites calls that we've had," said Beach Environmental exterminator David Sprague.

Instead of colonies in the thousands, Asian termites have colonies in the millions. And their damage is much more extensive.

"Typically the termites that we have here will eat a portion of the wood, and leave a portion of the wood... this termite just seems like it just eats in full, whatever it goes after."

University of Florida Professor of Entomology Rudolf Scheffrahn says he has studied samples from Peanut Island.  The termites can travel by air or by boat.  More samples have now confirmed that Asian Termites are in Riviera Beach and spreading.  Beach Environmental says its exterminators saw the population move from Congress to Military Trail over the course of three months.

The infestation is introduced by boat, according to the University of Florida.  Scheffrahn says boats with a lot of wood, bilge water and moisture carry the termites, who then fly at night and are attracted to light.  Once established, it is almost impossible to eradicate.

Asian termite colonies in the millions live underground in the earth, and can find a way through concrete and up through wood several stories up, as they did in the Coast Guard Museum.  Today, the Asian Termite is not alive in the tall building, but the company visits the site every few months to check that the termites are not posing a new threat.

Beach Environmental has donated services to care for the Coast Guard Museum and Kennedy Bunker on Peanut Island, both of which were infested with different kinds of termites.  The family who runs the business found they had to be creative in killing off the Asian Termite, as it was a species they were not used to fighting.  This summer, the company has noticed an enormous increase in calls regarding the termite.

The university says the termite will spread through the humid, tropical region until it reaches the Everglades.

"These guys don't care if it's wood, if it's paper, if it's got cellulose in it, they're going to eat it," Sprague said.

The best way to protect your home is with yearly inspections, Beach Environmental says.  If termites are detected, call the experts immediately.

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