During 2012, University of Georgia entomologists described a new species of termite that had been collected from Sapelo Island. This newly described species was named Reticulitermes nelsonae, making it the fifth subterranean termite species documented as inhabiting Georgia and other eastern states. Surprisingly, this species is likely more abundant in Georgia than the eastern subterranean termite (R. flavipes), which is the most economically damaging termite species in the state, as well as the entire country. Currently, R. nelsonae is not considered a serious termite pest to structures, and they prefer wooded habitats. However, R. nelsonae is not easily distinguishable from the other four native subterranean termite species found in the eastern US, and this species was only accurately identified through genetic testing, as visual identification is unreliable. While the discovery of this new termite species was not expected to result in any immediate advancements in the termite control industry, researchers claim that the technology that made this new species’ discovery and description possible will allow termite species to be immediately identified by pest control professionals in the future.
Until 2011, there was no type of technology available to accurately differentiate between the multiple subterranean termite species found in eastern US. Now, advancements in genetic testing technology can enable pest control professionals to accurately identify the termite species responsible for infestations. This is important since all five of the subterranean termite species in the east demonstrate unique infestation behaviors despite their nearly identical appearance. By identifying the particular infestation behaviors demonstrated by each termite species, monitoring termites around homes and formulating treatment plans will soon become species-specific. As a result of this research, pest control professionals may soon possess technology that allows them to take and send pictures of termite pests to a service that will quickly return information concerning how the pictured species should be controlled. Researchers are hoping that this form of technology will soon become commercially available.
Have you ever experienced a termite infestation that a pest controller had trouble identifying?