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There are more than 3,000 termite species in the world, and most of these species are located within hot and humid tropical regions. Termites constantly convert dead plant matter into soil nutrients, which makes termites ecologically essential organisms in tropical regions where rainforests are abundant and plant species are diverse. If termites were not around to remove and convert dead plant-matter into arable soil, trees and vegetation would fail to grow. Considering this, it is not surprising to learn that the diversity of termite species in the US is highest in subtropical areas of the south. Surprisingly, states located in the northeast, such as Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut, are located within a moderate to high termite pest activity zone. Termite pest issues are common in the northeast despite the existence of only one termite pest species in most states in the region. However, this termite pest species, Reticulitermes flavipes (the eastern subterranean termite), is by far the most widely distributed, destructive and economically damaging termite species in the US, and there are several factors that make homes in the northeast vulnerable to subterranean termite attacks.

Around 50 termite species have been documented in the US, but only around one third of these species infest manmade structures. Experts believe that subterranean termites had not been abundant in the northeast until the advent of central heating, which attracted subterranean termites to homes in the region. Most termite species cannot survive cold temperatures, but unlike many termite pest species, eastern subterranean termites can survive northeast winters by traveling as far as one meter below the ground where freezing temperatures can be avoided. These termites are also more able than other species to remain active in shaded areas during cooler months, and eastern subterranean termites have a geographical advantage in the northeast due to their ability to survive under water for 20 hours, nearly twice as long as the survival rate of Formosan subterranean termites. This is important to termite survival in the northeast where ponds and small water bodies are abundant, and the shallow soil often becomes saturated with water. Eastern subterranean termite colonies are constantly growing in size and number in the northeast due to the large amounts of dead wood beneath the ground in residential areas.

The abundance of wooded areas in the northeast contributes to termite population growth, but it also used to be customary for building contractors to leave wood debris, such as lumber scraps and wooden stakes, on the ground at construction sites. These wood scraps were eventually covered by soil during the construction process, and modern construction and housing laws in many states require all natural and manmade wood sources to be removed from construction sites when new homes are being built. This practice became mandatory in some states solely to decrease termite activity around homes, and given the high proportion of northeastern homes that were built long before this practice became law, it is not surprising that a high number of homes in the northeast continue to become infested with eastern subterranean termites.

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