Termites – Spread Through Louisiana Mulch

The panicky emails about the potential spread of Formosan termites have been making the rounds since Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana.

Although the premise seems important, my conclusion is that this is not true.

In the first place, “the state” is not trying to get rid of mulch out of state. Louisiana officials are arguing internally about where to dispose of wood waste (landfill, compost, etc) but they are well aware of the hazards of sending termite-infested wood out of state and have quarantined wood from all of the known Formosan termite infestations.

LSU Ag Center: Termites

Secondly, the process of chipping the waste would tear apart termite colonies. Even if live worker termites survived, they can not function without a queen. So they would die in a short time.

The most common method of Formosan termite spread is when an entire colony is transported in railroad ties or telephone poles – not through freshly ground mulch.

see also Urban Legends: Termites

Dr Dan Suiter, University of Georgia termite expert says:

“Following is the partial text of an email I received from The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (via the USDA) in response to a recent question regarding the possible spread of the Formosan subterranean termite in mulch from termite-infested areas of Louisiana.”

The LDAF goes on to state, “The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Office of Agricultural and Environmental Science have a quarantine in place in the Katrina and Rita affected parishes. All of the wood debris in the quarantine areas of the state of Louisiana is going to an approved landfill within the designated quarantine area. There are a multitude of government (State and Federal) agencies that are looking at this debris every day as it is deposited into these land fills. The contractors that are mulching and hauling the debris know the regulations and are abiding by them according to the quarantine requirements. If there is anyone that has knowledge of debris moving out of a quarantine area they are to contact the LDAF. These are serious allegations and will be taken seriously.

“In other words, yes, termite-infested trees in Louisiana are being chipped, but this material is prohibited from even leaving the quarantined area (i.e., the LA parish where it’s chipped) except to approved land fills within the State of Louisiana and one in Southern Mississippi. In summary, it can’t be spread if it’s prohibited from leaving the state.”

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