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In the United States, the annual economic cost incurred by termite damage amounts to at least five billion dollars. Most of this damage is inflicted by the eastern subterranean termite, the Formosan subterranean termite and other subterranean termite species. There exists no more than 50 termite species in the US, 20 of which are categorized as pests to structures. While this may sound like a high amount of termite pest species, the continent of Africa is home to more than 1,000 of the 3,000 termite species that have so far been documented. In the US, most termite pest species belong to the Reticulitermes and Coptotermes family, but in Africa, a variety of termites from several different families can be found. These families include: Coptotermes, Odontotermes, Macrotermes, Microcerotermes, Microtermes, Reticulitermes, Ancisrotermes,  Schedorhinotermes and Pseudacanthotermes. Needless to say, termites pose a serious threat to timber-framed structures in Africa. Termite infestations are particularly common in homes located in certain regions of Ethiopia. For example, American researchers determined that 91 percent of 58 homes located in three districts of Ethiopia had active termite infestations.

American researchers inspected numerous houses located within three districts of Ethiopia’s Central Rift Valley back in 2012. Of the 91 percent of termite infested homes in this region, 81 percent of these homes had not aged beyond ten years. Despite the high amount of termite infested houses, more than half of residents made use of pre-construction preventative measures to repel termite attacks. However, these pre-construction methods were crude, as most residents used below-ground plastic sheet covers to block termites from accessing the ground surrounding a home, and homes were painted with used engine oil, as anecdotal evidence supports the efficacy of this method. Residents also build homes with specific types of timber that are resistant to termite attacks. Unfortunately, the frequent destruction of homes by termites require that homes be rebuilt regularly, which has led to the overuse of some natural sources of wood. This overuse has led to the depletion and even extinction of certain types of termite resistant timber in Ethiopia. The frequent rebuilding of homes in this region has also resulted in deforestation and environmental degradation, which will only accelerate the spread of termites in the region.

Do you believe that governments should do more to prevent the environmental damage that occurs as a result of termite activity in impoverished regions where termites are abundant?