May 2006


Formosan termites from New Orleans wood waste not likely

Formosan Subterranean termites were introduced into the greater New Orleans area, as well as several other coastal towns, after World War II. By the time they were identified in 1966, they had already become well established in areas throughout New Orleans and Lake Charles.

Eleven states have reported colonies of Formosan termites: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. It is possible that their spread will be restricted to southern areas because their eggs are not supposed to hatch below 68° F. 

There has been much interest in Formosan termites after an article on the Internet claimed that Formosan termites could be in mulch purchased from suppliers that used wood waste from the New Orleans area. Rumor had it that trees destroyed in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina could be infested with Formosan termites and would be chipped into mulch and shipped across the country, spreading Formosan termites.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry put in place strict quarantines in October 2005 which forbid hurricane-impacted areas in Louisiana to transport mulch, wood, or any other kind of wood waste outside their area. The material is being put into landfills. There are warnings and quarantines against moving building materials from damaged homes for use in other structures or areas.

Of special concern are architectural components such as beams, doors and salvaged lumber and lumber taken from damaged buildings and stored on the ground where it can become termite-infested. Railroad ties and landscape timbers installed on the ground are similarly a potential problem, and have a far greater and better documented risk of moving termites.

It is highly unlikely that termites and their colonies would survive the mulching, chipping process.

If anyone is chipping, bagging and selling mulch from southern Louisiana, it is being done illegally.


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