The annual cost of termite control and termite damage repairs in the United States is estimated to be around five billion dollars, and invasive termite activity accounts for a large part of this cost. In this context, the term, “invasive”, refers to an organism that causes environmental and/or economic harm in a geographic region where they are not native. In most cases, invasive insects are accidentally introduced into a non-native region by means of international commerce. Invasive termites that have become established in the US include the Asian subterranean termite, and most infamously, the Formosan subterranean termite, but there are many others.
Many invasive termites in the US today were first discovered within the state of Texas. Texas is a hotspot for invasive termite activity due to the many high-traffic ports in the state that see the arrival of foreign goods into the country. Houston is home to the second busiest port in the country in terms of the total tonnage of goods unloaded. Unfortunately, non-native termites, and other exotic insects, sometimes infest these goods, especially when it comes to lumber shipments. Termites are also known for infesting the wooden shipping pallets that are used for unloading goods from a vessel. For example, the first infestations of Formosan termites in the continental US were found around the Houston shipping Channel, strongly indicating an accidental introduction via shipping vessel.
The warm, humid and rainy subtropical climate on the Texas coast allows for the survival of many non-native termite species that originated from similar environments elsewhere. This is why Formosan termites, while highly destructive, have not traveled beyond the Gulf Coast region, but they have become established in well over 30 counties in Texas. Of course, Formosan termites are not the only invasive termites in the US that first arrived in Texas. Back in 1956, termites of the Coptermes crassus species from Honduras and western Mexico were found beneath rocks near a port in Houston. It was assumed that this species arrived via shipping vessel, especially since these termites were later found within timber areas located near two other ports in Texas. Luckily, experts believe that this species has been eradicated, and no longer dwells in the US. Western drywood termites are California natives, but they often infest shipments of lumber, furniture and fruit boxes that arrive in Texas from the west coast. Several Texas residents have fallen victim to western drywood termite infestations as a result of these shipments.
Do you believe that it is inevitable that more invasive termites will become established within Texas?