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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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The Storm and the Termites

Do you remember hearing about a terrible hurricane that struck the city of New Orleans in August 2005? Named "Katrina," it was a huge storm that killed more than 1,800 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Many of the people who fled still haven't been able to return, because their houses were flooded or destroyed. (Teachers! Click here for more Katrina facts from a National Hurricane Center Report)

A historic building in New Orleans.

 
This building is called The Cabildo. It was the site for signing of the Louisiana Purchase—and the site of a Formosan subterranean termite invasion. ARS research helped get the termites out of the building.  

But scientists wondered if one positive thing might have come from that awful storm. They thought that maybe all the water dumped by the hurricane might help chase away the city's biggest pest: termites!

Termites look like medium-sized ants. They mostly live underground and eat rotting wood. But they can even eat things like books and photographs.

That's a big problem for homeowners and businesses in New Orleans, where there's an especially nasty kind called the Formosan subterranean termite. These pests are only about a quarter-inch long—but they've got a serious appetite! Termites will eat non-stop, 24 hours a day.

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Last Modified: 9/4/2007
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