Hurricanes Don’t Stop Termite Research in New Orleans

Richard Bogren, Ring, Dennis R.  |  4/10/2006 9:44:44 PM

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did not interfere with the LSU AgCenter’s efforts to control Formosan termites in New Orleans. Known as the French Quarter Program, the federally funded pilot test began in 1998.

Featuring various treatments to combat the termites, the program is a partnership among the LSU AgCenter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board and area pest control applicators.

Two types of treatments are used to decrease the Formosan subterranean termite numbers in the French Quarter test area, according to AgCenter entomologist Dennis Ring.

“We have baits that the pest management professionals monitor on a monthly basis and liquid treatments that are inspected yearly,” Ring said. “The treatments are applied by local pest management professionals using commercially available baits or nonrepellent 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, the research was virtually put on hold, even though the French Quarter was not flooded.

Ring said the program was reactivated in October 2005 with renewed sampling and inspections. “Most of the applicators have started sampling their stations and putting in treatments,” he said.

“The best evidence we have of success in the French Quarter project comes from the inspection of buildings in the original 1 5 blocks included in the test area,” said Frank Guillot, USDA’s national program coordinator for the Formosan Termite Program.

He said inspections of properties in 2003 found 26 percent of the inspected buildings were infested with live termites. Inspection results for 2005 show 5 percent of the inspected buildings are infested.

“Another indication of success is near total elimination of heavy termite activity on the levee immediately adjacent to the French Quarter,” Guillot said. “Except for one isolated area, all other trap locations on the levee from Canal Street to Esplanade are inactive.”

Guillot said some people think since parts of the city stayed under water for a long time, the termites would have drowned. Parts of the French Quarter were flooded for only a few hours, and other parts were not flooded at all.

“What people seem to forget is that there were parts of buildings and trees above the water. So continuing the pilot test is important,” Guillot said. “We’ve found that termites did survive where flooding occurred. We do know that termites are still there, but we won’t know for a while how many.”

Guillot said a swampy area near Lake Charles has been home to a colony of actively thriving 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,” he said.

Rick Bogren

(This article was published in the winter 2006 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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