‘Termite hunters’ hard at work in New Orleans

Christopher Dunaway, Bogren, Richard C., Ring, Dennis R., Morgan, Alan L., Parkes, Gia  |  12/21/2007 11:15:40 PM

News Release Distributed 12/22/07

Armed with flashlights and long, sharp probes, LSU AgCenter inspectors search for termites in homes and businesses in the historic New Orleans French Quarter. They crawl through attics and prowl every room in a building, poking at walls suspected of harboring termites and knocking on baseboards listening for hollow sounds that would indicate termites have eaten away the wood.

These inspections set the stage for pest control operators to follow up with treatments designed to kill any termites present and prevent the spread of new colonies, said Dr. Dennis Ring, an entomologist with the LSU AgCenter.

The LSU AgCenter inspectors, Chris Dunaway, Gia Parkes, Chris Morel and Rose Broggi are members of an AgCenter team responsible for termite inspections for the Operation Full Stop program in the French Quarter.

A nationwide termite management program, Operation Full Stop is a cooperative effort that includes the LSU AgCenter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board, Audubon Nature Institute and independent pest control operators.

The community-based management program is designed to control termites in one of the oldest urban areas of the country. To be effective, the program seeks to treat every structure in the French Quarter. That’s the only way to be sure termite nests aren’t missed, said Dr. Alan Morgan, an LSU AgCenter entomologist who has been working with Operation Full Stop since its inception.

The program pays the pest control applicators, so building owners have no out-of-pocket expense for the treatments. 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 pre-treatment data and allowing interior and exterior inspections of the treated buildings.

But before the treatments can begin, each structure must be inspected to identify if termites are present, Dunaway said.

After a property owner contracts with a pest control operator, the pest control operator contacts the LSU AgCenter, he added.

Then, an LSU AgCenter team arranges with the property owner to inspect the structure. After the inspection, the AgCenter processes the paperwork, the pest control operator treats the structure, and the pest control operator is paid, Parkes said.

Participating property owners also must eliminate correctable conditions that contribute to termite infestations in structures, such as wood-to-ground contact and water leaks.

Although the AgCenter inspectors generally use the tried-and-true tools – a flashlight and sharp probe – they’re now using new technology. One new tool is an infrared camera.

Because it can differentiate temperatures to fractions of a degree, the infrared image can be used to locate places on a wall where temperatures are different, Dunaway said. Often, these temperature differences are caused by higher moisture levels – environments where termites might live.

And even if termites aren’t present, the image indicates where a building may have moisture problems – from leaking pipes, roofs, windows or other reasons – which could create an environment where Formosan subterranean termites could live, Dunaway said.

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.

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Contact: Chris Dunaway at (225) 578-2180 or cdunaway@agcenter.lsu.edu
Gia Parkes at (225) 578-2180 or gparkes@agcenter.lsu.edu
Dennis Ring at (225) 578-2180 or dring@agcenter.lsu.edu
Alan Morgan at (225) 578-2368 or amorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu

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