Posts Tagged “New Orleans”
The Formosan Subterranean Termite, no bigger than one-eighth of an inch, has initiated several detrimental and costly issues to our environment, economy, and society as a whole. These termites are one of many and destructive invasive species that has plagued the United States within the last half century. Yet, despite its long and discontent presence here, we have been unsuccessful in eradicating their existence; for once they have been fully established in their territory it is often difficult to terminate them.
Native to the southern lands of China and Japan, a region of hot and sticky climate, it is believed that they were brought over to the United States at the end of War World Two after soldiers were ordered to build wooden boxes using the native trees of Japan to ship back their supplies and belongings. Once these boxes arrived throughout the United States, the termites were able to establish a firm hold and expand their colonies throughout the Louisiana region. Termites can only reproduce in certain temperatures; their eggs cannot hatch when temperatures are less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, Louisiana’s climate of high temperatures and humidity, specifically New Orleans, served as the ideal location for the termites to thrive.
Part of the termite’s success and prosperity is due to its ability to form colonies based on a caste system; soldiers, workers, or queen and king. While the workers consume and disintegrate wooden structures at rapid rates, soldiers fight off native species that pose as threat to the colonies and the queen preoccupies herself with the most important role of producing up to 2000 eggs per day. With such a well structured and powerful colony, one termite colony could potentially reach sustainable and destructive population levels within three years. Once their colony reaches their peak, they are capable of bringing on severe damage to a building in as little as three months.
There is no surprise that the estimated total cost in attempting to maintain and eliminate this pest is over two billion dollars a year. The film “Strange Days on Planet Earth” presents one solution of conducting research on the termites, for studying their biological structures is crucial in developing controlled and extermination methods. New Orleans was successful in some extent when they decided to poison the colonies, yet poisoning them is a slow and long process for these termites still lurk the regions of Louisiana and other southern states.
Now the question comes as to how to fully eradicate this problem. Seeking solutions is difficult and the southern states may have no other options but to slowly exterminate them though chemicals and poison. Their next concern should not only be focus on exterminating them, but also preventing them from spreading and causing further damage. The best solution to prevent further expansion of this invasive species is to periodically examine possible infected building structures before serious damage is incurred.
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Which is worse, Katerina or termites? For New Orleans both have been destructive forces. Katerina, of course being more recognizable. However, as the Katerina efforts successfully come to an end, the termite problem seems to have escalated.
According to the movie, Strange Days on Planet Earth, termites entered the US during WWII. Crates being shipped from China to America hosted these insects. When the crates were thrown away, these aliens made their escape to American homes. These homes and towns became wooden play grounds for termites to feast on.
Termites are small insects. However, they are numerous in number. They groom each other, share food, and communicate. Due to the sticky, hot climate and the newcomers abilities to nest above ground rather then only underground (like the native termites), these termites have been successful in damaging New Orleans since 1960.
Claudia Riegal, an expert, suggests “managing” the termites by first locating the nests of the termites, some can reach as long as 100ft in certain neighborhoods, and placing bait stations filled with poison in them. By doing this, Riegal hopes to cut off the main supply runs of the termites. This process will take three months, and will simply manage the termites, not eradicate them.
Some may be upset with the comparison between Katerina and the termites. However, the termites are a growing, invisible force that needs to be confronted. Therefore, I believe Riegal is doing an excellent job in trying to not only control these invasive animals, but understand them. By doing this she can hopefully eradicate the termites, and save New Orleans, rather then just “managing” them. Yet, the question then becomes, will these termites ever be able to be eradicated? Will New Orleans ever be able to escape destructive forces?
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The main woodworkers in the South these days are extremely unhelpful. They cripple floors and break up beams. They undermine the foundations of houses and buildings. They are a detriment to infrastructure. They are also termites. The southern United States, in particular the city of New Orleans, has been suffering from termite infestations for the larger part of a half century. New Orleans has been ravaged by these tiny insects, but one thing about them makes them quite interesting. These southern termites are most likely invaders.
According to Claudia Riegel, these termites came over to the United States about fifty years ago from half a world away. When US soldiers prepared to pull out of Asian territories, the crates they used to carry cargo were probably infested with Formosan termites, as National Geographic’s Strange Days on Planet Earth series reports. For those forces arriving home in New Orleans, the boxes brought on shore and subsequently thrown in trash heaps on military bases were the perfect vector to transport the termites to a perfect new home. The hot, sticky climate in New Orleans is very similar to the termites’ native land in China. Plus, on arrival there was an abundance of wood, the termite food supply. Eating their way through houses and floorboards, termites cost the United States over $1 billion annually. The aggressive invaders have taken over cities of the South.
Unfortunately, Claudia Riegel‘s efforts to combat the termite issue have reached the point of just containment. The termite infestation has spread so quickly and vigorously that eradication of the termite population in New Orleans is probably out of the question. Instead, Riegel has focused her time and energy on finding ways to prevent further spread of these insect monsters. By establishing a sensor network over known termite supply lines, she monitors their location and is able to poison the supply lines leading back to the nests, which are much more difficult to locate. This helps keep termite populations in check, a feat increasingly difficult because of the termites’ ability to nest above as well as below ground.
Riegel has taken an interesting approach to the termite problem. Her use of bait stations around the city of New Orleans was a creative idea in my opinion. Using these devices she is able to simultaneously keep track of the termites as well as fight them. Using poisoned paper that the termites could carry back to their nests seemed like it would be quite an effective idea. However, I feel that there must be some way in which the termites could be more than just contained, and could in fact be eradicated. Perhaps introduction of some sort of virus or disease that only affects these termites would do the trick? Research of Formosan termites in Asia could provide some answers about the background from which these termites came and what methods could be used against them. Although after a period of fifty years of successful invasion, can we really even call the termites of New Orleans Formosan? At this point, many, many generations of termites must have come and gone. They might be able to be viewed as their own species of a sort.
Finally, I do question the current state of the city. With this video being a few years old, produced pre-Katrina, I wonder how the situation has changed. Did Hurricane Katrina aid the fight against the termites in New Orleans? Or did Katrina exacerbate the problem by destroying so many homes, which could have provided even more food for the invaders? I would be very interested to know what Claudia Riegel is up to now.
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The Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus) is one of the most destructive insects in the world. A single colony can consist of several million individuals and forage within a 100 meter range, consuming up to 400 grams of wood per day. While this is not necessarily a problem in the wild, it can become a pressing issue if the termites’ daily meals consist of wood from human structures.
This problem is especially prevalent in New Orleans’ French Quarters. The termites are thought to have arrived after World War Two, when returning troops shipped items back in boxes made out of wood from local trees in Japan and China. The termites became noticable around 1960 and now, according to the USDA, New Orleans houses one of the largest Formosan Termite infestations in the country. Most species cannot proliferate in a new environment, but the termites are successful because the climate in New Orleans is hot and humid, similar to its native habitats on the other side of the world. In addition, its natural predators do not exist in New Orleans and the old, wooden buildings provide an ample supply of food.
The termites can cause devastating damage to buildings in mere months, and they show no respect for historic buildings or important structures such as the pump stations that keep the Gulf of Mexico from flooding the city.
Currently, scientists are trying to keep the termites at bay by setting up bait stations and poisoning the colonies. There are also chemicals that are being used which stop the growth cycles of the termites. However, scientists do not believe that chemical agents are the only effective method of countering the pests, and there are investigations into introducing organisms that naturally attack the termite.
In 1998, congress authorized $5 million to be put toward funding erradication methods, and more has been spent since then. The termites are estimated to cause $1 billion in property damage yearly, causing the fight to erradicate them to become known as “the second battle of New Orleans.”
The methods employed by officials seem sustainable, but does not appear to successfully get rid of the termite once it has established itself in a community. Since they are from halfway around the world, much more research needs to be conducted on the termites in the United States. It would also be interesting to know about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the termites.
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