Dangerous wood-eating Nasutitermes cornier termites that can destroy trees and damage homes are the latest infestation to turn up in Florida, and they are native to the Caribbean but have now joined the 20 or so other species that live in the state.
The insects are only one problem species found recently in South Florida because there’s been an infestation of African rats, Burmese pythons, and very poisonous caterpillars.
However, the arrival of the termite is probably the most significant because it poses a problem for hardwood, trees, garden furniture and these critters attack the outside wall of homes, which can cause thousands of dollars for the homeowner.
The termites differ from Florida’s other species because they are found above ground and can fly – making it easier for them to establish new nests.
The so-called Sunshine state has four types of poisonous caterpillars whose sting can cause humans to pass out in pain.
Beware the saddleback caterpillar, the puss caterpillar, the io caterpillar and the hag caterpillar.
Southern Florida’s crocodiles, which grow up to 14 feet, have multiplied 10-fold in the last 40 years. There are about 1,500 of the reptiles.
A growing population of Burmese pythons are threatening to wipe out large numbers of raccoons, opossums and other small mammals in the Everglades area.
Huge Gambian pouch rats, which grow up to nine pounds, have been found on Florida’s Grassy Key despite efforts to eradicate them.
Boa constrictors, Nile monitor lizards, and vervet monkeys have also wreaked havoc on local animal species.
They build tunnels running up the outside of houses and trees where they create beach ball sized nests weighing up to 28 kilograms.
And a single nest could hold more than a million termites, Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, professor of entomology at the University of Florida, told the Sun Sentinel.
“They love to eat hardwoods. They ate the handles off garden implements, rakes and hoes — turned them into shredded wheat. If this thing really keeps going, it’s going to be a problem for tropical Florida, from West Palm Beach to the Keys,” warned Scheffrahn.
He worries that the new species could increase the amount of termites in the Dania Beach region by as much as 30 per cent.
But agricultural officials are determined to stamp out the plague of termites before they spread any further.