Dennis Ring, Morgan, Alan L., Bogren, Richard C. | 9/22/2007 1:18:01 AM
NEW ORLEANS – An additional 14 square blocks of the historic French Quarter have been added to a federal program to combat Formosan subterranean termites in this city, officials announced here on Sept. 20.
The French Quarter Program in New Orleans is a part of Operation Full Stop, a nationwide termite management program, said Dr. Dennis Ring, an LSU AgCenter entomologist.
The focus is a community-based management strategy to control Formosan subterranean termites. The program is a cooperative effort including the LSU AgCenter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board.
The New Orleans program started in 1998 in a limited area of the French Quarter and has been expanded into additional parts of the Quarter since then, said Dr. Alan Morgan, an LSU AgCenter entomologist who has been working with Operation Full Stop since its inception. The latest expansion includes the area bordered by Bienville, St. Phillip, Rampart and Dauphine streets.
Morgan said the program now covers approximately 78 square blocks as well as the riverfront between Decatur Street and the Mississippi River bordering the French Quarter. This expansion completes the French Quarter with the exception of the first two blocks off Canal Street.
In Area 1, where the program started, intensive inspections of structures have shown significant reductions in termites, Ring said. And counts of alates – the winged termites that swarm in the spring to establish new colonies – have fallen nearly one-half over the past year and 75 percent overall.
“In Area 2, alate numbers are about the same as last year but down from earlier years,” Ring said. “In areas 3 and 4, where the program has been in effect fewer years, some structures are still not in the program. Alate numbers in these areas have decreased since treatment started but increased over the last year.”
Ring said the increases could be attributed to Hurricane Katrina, which disrupted the program in the year following the storm. During that time, some inspections or treatments were not done because some people were unavailable and some property changed hands.
“It’s difficult to bring the last few structures into the program,” Ring said. “And we want to include everyone we can.”
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.
Morgan 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.
Participants also must eliminate correctable conditions that contribute to termite infestations in structures, such as wood-to-ground contact and water leaks, Ring said.
Ring said new equipment, including infrared cameras, improves the chances of finding termites.
Infrared cameras can detect temperature changes to the fraction of a degree, Ring said. Termites bring moisture into walls, and moisture lowers temperatures. Infrared cameras detecting lower temperatures suggest moisture levels that may indicate termites – or at least moisture problems – in the structure.
“Inspection is a key feature of the program,” said Dr. Frank Guillot, USDA’s national coordinator for the Formosan subterranean termite program.
Guillot, based in the USDA’s Southern Regional Research Center here, said results from the past nine years’ 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 reinspections 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 aboveground 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.
Guillot said control is difficult unless all structures are included in the program, and even then, termites can continue to be a problem.
Termite treatments often miss abandoned structures, and the insects build nests in trees, buried debris, railroad crossties, levees and wharves. In addition, colonies may remain hidden in treated structures and common walls between two buildings, he said.