By Dr. Ron Hei
| Monday, March 6th, 2006 at 2:10 pm
New Orleans is one of the areas in the continental United States where Formosan Termites are well established. (They currently infest 11 states.) During the past hurricane season many trees were blown down. Trees that succumbed to the high wind are the most likely to have been weakened by being infested with those termites. The same is true for wooden housing structures in the city.
One way to get rid of the debris during post-hurricane clean-up is to use wood chippers and shredders to create mulch. Mulch from infested trees would carry termite eggs, and if sold in other parts of the United States would spread the infection.
The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center notes that efforts are being made to quarantine the infected mulch:
Efforts are under way to prevent the spread of Formosan subterranean termites in mulch from New Orleans and Louisiana following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It is true that there is a lot of cellulose debris (wood, paper and their products) in Louisiana following these two hurricanes. Yes, Formosan subterranean termites are found in the parishes affected by the hurricanes and will get in mulch. However, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) in Louisiana imposed a quarantine for the Formosan subterranean termite on October 3, 2005….
Movement of wood or cellulose material is prohibited unless either (1) it is fumigated or treated for Formosan subterranean termites and is approved for movement by the commissioner or his designee(s) or (2) written authorization is given by the commissioner or his designee(s) for the movement of untreated wood or cellulose material from the quarantined parishes….
Considering the rampant corruption pervading New Orleans at the city level and Louisiana at the state level, we would advise our readers not to rely on these government precautions. Approval of a batch of mulch could easily be granted for a bribe, kickback, or some other sort of political favor. This is not the year to economize by buying bargain mulch.
There are several alternatives.
- You can select bagged mulch from long-established reputable mulch companies, clearly identified as northern hardwoods from Vermont, pine nuggets from Oregon, that sort of thing.
- You can purchase the more expensive cedar mulch, and then you won’t need to spend money on pesticides. It is like putting your flower beds and trees in a safe “cedar closet.”
- You can use your mulching lawn mower and recycle your own yard waste to use as mulch. That way, whatever plant diseases you get will be your own.
- Many towns have a mulch program. They collect leaves in the fall in bio-shreddable bags and create a huge town mulch pile. Residents can help themselves for free.
We may be facing the worst case of transporting a problem to all parts of the country that we have ever had. These termites can eat a house in no time at all and there is no good pesticide control against them. Once established, they can only be hindered by expensive civic efforts to find and sterilize the nests.
From the United States Agricultural Research Service comes this announcement:
New Orleans is “ground zero” for a national campaign against the Formosan subterranean termite, an exotic species that now infests 11 states. The campaign includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, and the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board. The Audubon Institute fills an important educational role.
The goal is to reduce the Formosan termite’s numbers and colonies. Along with that should come a marked reduction in the $1 billion per year cost in property damage, repairs and control measures….
Dear readers, beware the termites. They are coming to a garden center near you, bagged and ready to spread.