Hurricane Zeta blew into the South earlier this month, shredding homes and businesses with powerful winds and leaving about two million electricity customers without power.
More than 200 downed trees were reported to the 911 call center in New Orleans from the hurricane, and many of those trees fell because they were termite infested and couldn’t withstand the strong winds. These trees, found to be swarming with Formosan termites, were hollowed out and full of nests, making them more susceptible to the strong winds.
The Formosan subterranean termite, native to China, was accidentally introduced into the southern U.S. and has since been found in nine southern states. Since 1993, several dozen infestation sites have been found in Georgia. These termites feed on the wood of live oak, cypress, ash and other types of trees. While they prefer to feast on the wood of declining trees, healthy ones are also affected.
Similar to termite activity inside the home, termites in trees can also cause trouble for homeowners. Termites that infest trees consume the wood inside the tree until it can no longer stand. This poses a danger if the fallen tree ends up on your home, car or backyard.
While termites play a crucial role as recyclers in the forest ecosystem, they can be a serious threat to the trees they infest and should be removed as quickly as possible, especially if the colony is located near a house or other building that may also become infested.
Check your trees for signs of termite infestation:
- Many termites will leave small holes and wood shavings where they’ve entered the wood.
- The best place to look for them is around the base of the tree; you can use a small shovel to dig around the roots because termites usually exist just below the soil line.
- Because Formosan termite colonies are so large, you may also see discarded wings and termite carcasses.
- Other signs include shelter tubes on the trunks of trees, and swarm ‘castles’ located within scars of the trees, or even small white eggs.
A tree’s ability to survive a termite infestation depends on how soon it is treated and the extent of the infestation. If an infestation is noticed and treated early, the tree is likely to survive. If the tree is close to your home, contact an arborist to evaluate the tree’s health and determine if it may fall or break a limb that could damage your house.
To lessen the likelihood of termite infestation in your trees, yard or home, avoid leaving dead tree stumps in your yard, don’t stack firewood near your home, and steer clear of having excess mulch around the structure.
An outbreak of termites in your yard could also mean these silent destroyers have invaded your home. Call a pest management professional for a free, no-obligation inspection.