Hurricane Georges Reveals Smaller, Quieter
Menace in New Orleans Trees
By Jan Suszkiw
November 9, 1998
The glancing blow by Hurricane Georges that toppled 28 trees in New
Orleans City Park in September revealed that most were infested by
Formosan subterranean termites. Now scientists wonder just how many more trees
at the 1,500-acre park harbor the tiny, ravenous pest?
A post-storm survey revealed that 75 percent of the fallen trees21 of
28harbored the insect. Among the trees were oak, elm, palm, pine and
cypress. Termite damage, say Agricultural
Research Service scientists, probably weakened the trees enough that they
couldnt withstand the storms high, sustained winds. A direct hit
might have felled many more. ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agricultures chief scientific arm.
The scientists, led by microbiologist Alan Lax, are based at ARS
Center in New Orleans. Theyre helping wage Operation Full Stop, a new
national campaign to suppress the Formosan subterranean termite. In New Orleans
alone, it costs city residents about $300 million annually in repairs and
Researchers hope to undermine the pest by exploiting weaknesses in its
chemical communication, nutrition and growth. Theyre also helping conduct
pilot studies with the New
Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board and five state universities.
Experts believe the termite entered the U.S. in military supply ships returning
from the Pacific after World War II. Today it infests coastal regions of 13
states. Details on Operation Full Stop can be found on the World Wide Web at:
Operation Full Stop also was the cover story in a recent issue of ARS
Research magazine. The story also is on the web at:
Scientific contact: Alan Lax, ARS
Formosan Subterranean Termite
Research Unit, Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, La., phone
(504) 286-4472, fax (504) 286-4419, email@example.com