Invasive termites exist on all continents except for Antarctica. Although the invasive Formosan subterranean termite species causes serious economic damage in the United States, there are other regions that are even more burdened by invasive termite activity. During the past forty four years, fourteen termite species have been added to the list of invasive termites. Today there are twenty eight invasive species that are active in different parts of the world. Most of these invasive species originated from south and southeast Asia. Seven of the twenty eight invasive species active today are native to Asia. However, Asia is not the only source of troublesome termites as six invasive termites also originated from South America. Surprisingly, two invasive termite species originated from the United States as well.
In addition to Asia and South America, Australia is also home to five invasive termite species. Africa follows Australia with three invasive species, while the Caribbean Islands and Europe each contain one native termite species that is considered invasive. Not surprisingly, the establishment of invasive termites correlated with increasing global trade. There has been very little scientific inquiry into how non-native termites established invasive populations in foreign countries that are surrounded by ocean. However, most experts agree that the colonial era marked the beginning of invasive termites in America and elsewhere.
During the colonial era raw materials were shipped to and from the Americas, Europe and Asia. The destructive termite pest known as Cr. brevis is now believed to have been transported from Peru to various Caribbean Islands and beyond by Spanish trading ships. During the last one hundred years Australia has become a major trading partner with southeast Asian countries. The trading routes used by these regions may explain how certain invasive Australian termite species wound up in New Zealand. Shipments between southeast Asia and Australia have resulted in invasive termite establishments on several Pacific islands. Islands contain more invasive termites than any other region, as termites seem to thrive on island habitats.
Do you think that the wooden ships used during the colonial era made the cross-continental transport of termites more common and more difficult to detect?