WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The University of Florida has confirmed an infestation of the West Indian subterranean termite in Loxahatchee – the first one in the state outside of a single Miami neighborhood – an indication that this species is moving to the north. A Hulett Environmental Services technician found the termite infestation during an inspection.
Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species of termites and are the species most frequently found throughout Florida. They can collapse an entire building, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner. In the United States, about $4.5 billion is spent each year to control subterranean termite infestations and repair damage they cause.
“This species of subterranean termite is found in Jamaica and the Grand Cayman, and it was 1995 when it was first discovered in this country in Miami,” said Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, the professor of entomology who confirmed Hulett’s findings. “The termites were most likely transported to Loxahatchee a number of years ago in a potted plant from the Little Haiti neighborhood where it is common.”
The West Indian subterranean termites are small, brown and swarm during early summer evenings. They look similar to drywood termites, but getting rid of an infestation requires a different treatment protocol. That’s why it’s critical to understand what type of termite is infesting the area.
“It’s easy to misidentify the West Indian subterranean for drywood termites and spend hundreds of dollars on treating the wrong species,” said Tim Hulett, the company’s president and CEO, and an entomologist. “The wasted money is bad enough, but if left untreated the subterranean termites can cause extensive damage that will be much more expensive to treat and repair later on.”
Since the West Indian subterranean termite has demonstrated its ability to successfully establish colonies in South Florida, Scheffrahn expects it to continue to spread over time. They nest in soil and can attack any structure through mud tubes they build to connect their nests to wood. Since they’re either underground or hidden in wood, they are hard to find and identify.