Formosan Termites :

Posted: May 9, 2016 at 6:18 pm

Claim: E-mail warns that buying mulch from major home improvement stores will spread the Formosan subterranean termite.

Status: False.

Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

If you use mulch around your house be very careful about buying mulch this year. After the hurricane in New Orleans many trees were blown over. These trees were then turned into mulch and the state is trying to get rid of tons and tons of this mulch to any state or company who will come and haul it away. So it will be showing up in Home Depot and Lowes at dirt cheap prices with one huge problem; Formosan Termites will be the bonus in many of those bags. New Orleans is one of the few areas in the country were the Formosan Termites has gotten a strong hold and most of the trees blown down were already badly infested with those termites. Now we may have 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 we have no good control against them, so tell your friends that own homes to avoid cheap mulch and know were it came from.

One such accidental transplantation occurred around the time of World War II, when the Formosan subterranean termite was introduced into the United States by ships that carried the species from China to U.S. coastal towns. This species of termite has since established itself throughout the southern United States (including Hawaii and southern California), where it poses a threat to trees and the timber industry, as well as just about anything utility poles, homes, buildings, ships constructed wholly or partially from

Back in October 2005, Louisiana State University's (LSU) Agricultural Center (AgCenter) issued a warning about the potential spread of Formosan subterranean termites into new areas from southern Lousiana through the re-use of wooden building materials taken from homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina and installed in new structures elsewhere. As the LSU AgCenter notes, termites can be spread through the movement of many different kinds of wood products, including mulch:

This termite hitches a ride to new areas in infested cellulose. At the time of this writing, the number one method of spreading the Formosan subterranean termite is infested railroad ties. The second most important method of spreading the Formosan subterranean termite is infested utility poles. Other methods of spreading the termite include: wood from structures, lumber, pallets, landscape timbers, wood used in the oil industry, firewood, trees, woody plants, sawdust, mulch, wood in boats, potted plants, mobile homes, homes and paper.

All woody debris in the quarantined areas is going to an approved landfill within the designated quarantine area. There are a multitude of government (state and federal) agencies that are looking at this debris every day as it is deposited into these landfills. The contractors mulching and hauling the debris know the regulations and are abiding by them according to the quarantine requirements. If there is anyone with knowledge of debris moving out of a quarantine area, they should contact our 24-hour hotline at 225-925-3763.

Provisions of the quarantine imposed by the LDAF include:

Whatever the actual risk of termites turning up in mulch might be, however, the fact remains (and is the key to the "False" rating here) that contrary to the warning expressed above major home improvement chains such as Home Depot and Lowes are just about the safest outlets from which to buy mulch. Major retailers are generally much more aware and observent of quarantines, and they typically sell mulch in packages that identify their point of origin. Additionally, a representative of the Home Depot chain of home improvement stores informed us that they don't sell mulch from suppliers in the New Orleans area:

The Home Depot does not use any mulch suppliers from the New Orleans area. We have very strict policies and procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the mulch products sold in our stores. In fact, all our mulch suppliers are required to be certified by the Mulch and Soil Council (MSC), who created the industry standards and criteria for mulch and soil certification and inspection. You can find the MSC certification on the back of every bag.

For those homeowners who find themselves dealing with termite infestations (whatever the cause), there are are number of good sites on the web that provide information about termite control methods, some of which are linked in the "Additional information" section below.

Additional information:

Formosan Termites :

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