The state of Florida is well populated with insect pests. These high populations of insect pests come as a result of Florida’s environmental conditions, which are ideal for many insect species. Florida’s high humidity and abundant vegetation allow termite species to thrive in the area. During the 1990s, a cluster of invasive termite species were discovered in southern Florida. Initially, it was assumed that these termites had been the well known Formosan subterranean termites that were discovered within the Gulf Coast region back in the 1960s. However, it eventually became clear that the problematic termites were actually a new termite species that had not been documented as existing within the United States at the time. As a result of this misidentification on the part of researchers, the new termite species was able to destroy numerous manmade structures and several living and dead tree species.
Of the several new termite species that were discovered in south Florida during the past few decades, the species known as Coptotermes havilandi has remained the most elusive to researchers. During the spring of 1996, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ordered a team of entomologists to investigate a suspected infestation of Formosan subterranean termites in south Florida. The infestation had been reported in an office building near the Port of Miami, which was located near a Formosan termite distribution zone. Upon arrival to the office building, researchers noticed alates (winged termites) swarming near the structure. A vast network of foraging tubes were found around the building, and some specimens were taken from nearby trees. Although the termite infestation resembled a Formosan presence, researchers discovered that the termite culprits were actually Coptotermes havilandi. This was the first time that Coptotermes havilandi was discovered in the continental US.
Shortly after this infestation was discovered, the termites infested a nearby church. Another infestation of Coptotermes havilandi was found in an apartment building in Miami at around the same time. However, the infestation had been reported by the apartment residents five years prior, which was before pest control professionals knew about the termite’s presence in the US. Originally, pest control professionals believed that the infestation had been caused by eastern subterranean termites. This misidentification led to massive damage to timber materials within the complex, as the pest control chemical that had been applied to the area was designed to kill eastern subterranean termites, and not the Coptotermes havilandi species. It is believed that Coptotermes havilandi entered the US during the mid to late eighties.
Have you ever known someone who fell victim to an infestation of exotic termites?