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ARS Spearheads Campaign Against Exotic, Wood-Chomping Menace / April 27, 1998 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Formosan termite soldier

ARS Spearheads Campaign Against Exotic, Wood-Chomping Menace

By Jan Suszkiw
April 27, 1998

A new campaign led by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service kicks off today in New Orleans to rein in the destructive appetite of the Formosan subterranean termite. the insect is a pest in several states including Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Hawaii.

Dubbed “Operation Full Stop,” the ARS-led project includes experts from other federal labs, state organizations, industry and collaborating universities such as Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center at Baton Rouge. Congress has appropriated $5 million to fund the project for 1998.

The Formosan subterranean termite is an exotic pest that probably entered the United States shortly after World War II via supply ships returning from the Far East. But scientists didn’t detect it until the mid-1960's in New Orleans and other southern port cities. Today, the termite is established in more than a dozen states. But scientists fear it will continue to spread.

Because eradication isn’t likely, the goal is to suppress the pest’s numbers and minimize its damage. The termite now costs the U.S. $1 billion annually in repairs and control measures.

Round cap (foreground) marks a termite bait station in New Orleans' French Quarter

ARS’ Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans will coordinate studies to devise ways to aggressively attack the pest and destroy its colonies. A single, mature colony can include tens of millions of insects--the target of slow-acting baits and other control technologies. These include computerized maps to pinpoint bait placement sites, acoustic or other high-tech monitoring devices to track termite foraging, and beneficial organisms such as predaceous insects or fungi.

New Orleans is an ideal proving ground because of a firmly-entrenched Formosan termite infestation that costs the city’s inhabitants an estimated $300 million annually. That’s the latest report from the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board, another ARS collaborator. Operation Full Stop will eventually expand beyond Louisiana to other infested states.

More information can be viewed on the World Wide Web at:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/fullstop

Scientific contacts: USDA-ARS Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, phone (504) 286-4444; Ed King, assistant area director, ARS Mid-South Area Office, Stoneville, Miss., phone (601) 686-5275, fax (601) 686-5459, kinge@ars.usda.gov.

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