LSU AgCenter faculty members are working on plans to put the Formosan subterranean termite research project in New Orleans’ French Quarter back on track after the recent hurricanes.
Known as Operation Full Stop, the federally funded research project began with initial tests of 15 blocks in 1998 in an effort to reduce the numbers of the destructive termites. It has been expanded over the years and now covers approximately 54 blocks in the French Quarter.
The program involves various treatments to combat the termites and is the result of a partnership of the LSU AgCenter and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board and area pest control applicators.
LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Dennis Ring explains that two types of treatments are being used to try to decrease the termite population in New Orleans.
"We have baits that the pest management professionals monitor on a monthly basis and liquid treatments that are inspected yearly," Ring said, adding, "The treatments are applied by local pest management professionals using commercially available baits or non-repellent termiticides."
The program pays the pest control applicators, so homeowners have no out-of-pocket expense for the treatments.
Ring said since Hurricane Katrina dislocated many of the employees of the pest control operators, there has been no way to restart the research – even though the French Quarter was not flooded for a long period.
Some of the pest control operators involved in the project say they are still only up to about half staff, since some of their employees evacuated to places as far away as Michigan and California.
"We’re going to start sampling in the area in a week, and as soon as we can, we’re going to start doing inspections," Ring said. "Then it shouldn’t be too long before the applicators can get back in to start sampling their stations and putting in treatments."
Dr. Frank Guillot, USDA’s national program coordinator for the Formosan Termite Program, said some people think since parts of the city stayed under water for a long time, the termites would have drowned.
"What they seem to forget is that there were parts of buildings and trees above the water. So continuing the research project is very important," Guillot said, adding, however, "There is empirical research to show that termites do drown if they stay under water from 24 to 36 hours."
Guillot said there is a swampy area near Lake Charles that has been home to a colony of actively striving termites for more than 30 years. "These termites are isolated in the swamp, so they can’t have ground contact, because the saltwater keeps them out, but they have enough resources in the trees that they can survive."
Representatives of all four entities involved in the Operation Full Stop research project met in Jefferson Parish last week (Oct. 11) to discuss where they stood and determine how prepared they were to get back on track with the project.
"We mainly wanted to let the pest control applicators know that the research is continuing and that we want them to continue doing the job in the French Quarter and reduce the number of Formosan subterranean termites," Ring said of the meeting.
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