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The Economic Cost Of Termite Damage Is High In Northern US Regions Where Residents Assume Termites Are Not Active

February 11th, 2019

It is well known that termite activity is high in relatively warm southern regions of the United States. However, many people living in the north assume that their homes are immune to termite attacks. This assumption is based on the widespread belief that termites cannot survive in the cold northern US climate, but this assumption is incorrect. Termites exist in every US state, with the exception of Alaska. While termite activity is not as widespread in the north as it is in the south, and although there exists a greater abundance and diversity of termite species in the south relative to the north, the economic cost of termite damage in northern US regions is still substantial. In southern states, especially Louisiana and Florida, basically any home, no matter where it is located, is at risk of becoming infested with termites. Termite activity in northern states, on the other hand, is clustered into particular regions, making some structures vulnerable to termite attack and other structures in different areas not so vulnerable to attack. In southern states, where the public is aware of the widespread termite activity in their region, homes are built with features that repel invading termites, but in the north, where the risk of termite attack is believed to be low, homes are not built to withstand termite attacks. If modern anti-termite features were to be included in the construction of new homes in the north, the economic cost incurred by termite damage would decrease significantly in this region.

The eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, is the most common and most damaging termite in the northern states, especially in northern states east of the Mississippi River, like Michigan. Reticulitermes arenincola and R. tibialis are also commonly encountered termite species within infested houses located in the north. Termites have been found infesting structures in northern Montana and northern Wisconsin. A termite infestation was found in McKenzie County, North Dakota, which is located at a latitude of 48 degrees north. Termite infestations have also been reported in Toronto. All of these infestations were isolated and occured in areas that are surrounded by hundreds of miles of termite-free land. It is believed that termites reach these locations by means of infested soil and/or wood shipments from the south. Once termites become established in new northern locations, they rapidly spread in order to establish a permanent habitat. For example, just 25 years after a shipment of infested wood reached Toronto, termite colonies were found miles from the original infestation.

Do you believe that some termite species are slowly moving farther north in the United States?

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