Dennis Ring | 6/9/2006 3:25:01 AM
NEW ORLEANS – Eight square blocks of the historic New Orleans French Quarter have been added to an integrated pest management program aimed at reducing the concentrations of Formosan subterranean termites in the city, officials announced Wednesday (June 7).
The French Quarter Program in New Orleans is a part of Operation Full Stop, a nationwide termite management program, said Dr. Dennis Ring, an entomologist with the LSU AgCenter.
The program is a cooperative effort of the LSU AgCenter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board. Its focus is a community-based plan with strategies designed to manage Formosan subterranean termites.
The New Orleans program started in 1998 in a limited area and has been expanded into additional parts of the French Quarter several times since then. The latest expansion officially began June 7 with the inclusion of the area bordered by St. Phillip, Rampart, Esplanade and Dauphine streets.
Officials said the program now covers approximately 62 square blocks and the riverfront area between Decatur Street and the Mississippi River that borders the French Quarter.
Two types of treatments are being used to try to decrease the Formosan subterranean termite numbers in the test area, Ring said.
"We have baits that the pest management professionals monitor on a monthly basis and liquid treatments that are inspected yearly," he said. "The treatments are applied by local pest management professionals using commercially available baits or nonrepellent termiticides."
The federally funded program pays the pest control applicators, so building owners have no out-of-pocket expense for the treatments, the entomologist said. The surveys and day-to-day management of the program are conducted by the LSU AgCenter.
Ring said property owners may select any pest management company operating in New Orleans to participate in the program. The few requirements include using nonrepellent termiticides or bait systems, completing surveys to provide data prior to treatments and allowing interior and exterior inspections of the treated buildings.
Participants also must eliminate correctable conditions, such as wood-to-ground contact and water leaks, Ring said.
"This is a program that has shown a great deal of progress," said Lary P. Hesdorffer, director of the Vieux Carre Commission. "What we solve here may help other parts of the country, too."
Assessments of treatments in areas of the French Quarter have shown termite colonies can be eliminated – although the high density of Formosan termites in the French Quarter frequently leads to reinfestation by other colonies, according to Dr. Claudia Husseneder, an LSU AgCenter entomologist.
Husseneder, who has been using DNA to identify termite colonies and link them to infestation sites, said treatments always eliminate existing termite families, but they often are replaced by other families migrating from nearby areas.
"The bottom line is: Don’t let your guard down," said Dr. Frank Guillot, USDA’s national program coordinator for the Formosan Termite Program.
Guillot, based in the USDA’s Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, said results from the past eight years of research show the program has significantly reduced the presence of Formosan subterranean termites.
In the initial area, inspections in 2003 found 22 percent of the structures were infested with the wood-eating insects, but subsequent inspections in 2005 found only 6 percent of the structures were infested, Guillot said.
"Isolated areas of high termite activity remain," Guillot said. "The primary culprit is above-ground infestations."
Experts say that unlike native subterranean termites, Formosan subterranean termites can thrive out of the ground by building nests in walls and trees – as long as they have wood to live in and a source of water.
Formosan subterranean termite activity in an area with few structures or trees on the Mississippi River levee adjacent to the French Quarter is down 98 percent, Guillot said.
"People who keep up their properties are less likely to have termite problems," he said.
Hesdorffer urged property owners in the French Quarter to "bait, test, examine, search and manage the problem."