Updated: Nov 5
Part Three: Asian Tiger Mosquitos and Formosan Subterranean Termites
In this, the last of our blogs dedicated to invasive insect species, we will be looking at two particularly troublesome pests: the Asian Tiger Mosquito and Formosan Subterranean Termites.
Asian Lady Beetles) of this series, here’s a brief overview.
Invasive species are an enormous threat. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “Infestations of invasive plants and animals can negatively affect property values, agricultural productivity, public utility operations, native fisheries, tourism, outdoor recreation, and the overall health of an ecosystem.”
While exact costs are obviously difficult to calculate, one evaluation puts the “estimated damage and control cost of invasive species in the U.S. alone amounts to more than $138 billion annually.” And by the way, if that sounds like a lot, consider the fact that, “globally, 1.4 trillion dollars are spent every year in managing and controlling invasive species.”
Quite apart from the overall threat posed by these species, it is the invertebrates that pose the greatest challenge to human health. And chief among those threats is the Asian Tiger Mosquito!
The Asian Tiger Mosquito
Tradition has it that the Asian Tiger Mosquito was first identified in 1894 by Frederick A. Askew Skuse, an Anglo-Australian entomologist. Struck by the insect’s distinctive black and white markings he named it Culex albopictus (now renamed Aedes albopictus). For decades after its discovery, this pest was largely confined to South-East Asia, but that was to change!
A century later, the Asian Tiger Mosquito made its first appearance in the United States. Accounts of where, and when, this interloper made landfall, vary. According to one authority, “Asian tiger mosquitoes made their debut in America in the 1980s, stowed away in tires shipped from Asia. This cargo docked in Maryland, where the mosquito first made its presence known throughout Baltimore.”
Gabe Hamer, a clinical assistant professor in the department of entomology at Texas A&M University, reports on the worsening situation as well, writing, “What we have here is an invasive daytime-feeding, disease-carrying mosquito that, since it first arrived . . . in the 1980s, has been pretty aggressive in mowing down its natural competitors. And now it's really starting to move through the country in full force.”
Why Asian Tiger Mosquitos Are Dangerous
The Asian Tiger Mosquito is known to be quite aggressive and also carries Dengue Fever. What’s more—it has been associated with outbreaks of Yellow Fever, Zika Virus, West Nile Virus, and Encephalitis. Plus, they’re a threat to pets, since they carry the virus responsible for heartworm.
Perhaps more alarming is that some U.S. experts predict that this mosquito could well “become a prime North American vector for a particularly nasty joint and muscle pain illness for which there is neither a vaccine nor treatment: The Chikungunya virus.” Needless to say, these aren’t pests we want around (and not just because their bites itch…) So here is a look at how to get rid of these mosquitoes.
How to Control the Asian Tiger Mosquito
The Asian Tiger Mosquito likes water; a preference it shares with others of its species. Many mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, while others use moist soil as an incubator. You’re not going to find these pests making nests in your house or chewing on the siding.
Still, you have to get rid of them. You can start by making your house less attractive to mosquitoes - and that means getting rid of one thing: water.
The good news is: These tips will help get rid of all species of mosquitoes, and not just the Asian Tigers.
To get rid of mosquitoes, first get rid of water:
First, remove all standing water around your house.
Treat any landscape ponds with mosquito control products.
Check and empty buckets, flower pots, or tires for accumulated rainwater or runoff.
Clean bird baths regularly and replace the water frequently.
Clean out any clogged gutters and downspouts.
Chlorinate the water in your swimming pool, if you’re lucky enough to have one.
Getting rid of water will go along way, but it’s just the first step. Here are additional tips on how to get rid of the mosquitoes you have and make your home far less attractive to these pesky creatures. After you’ve eliminated the standing water around your house, here’s how to get rid of any mosquitoes that are still calling your place home.
Apply a reliable, EPA-registered insecticide to plugholes, water storage tanks and drains. This will eliminate any mosquito larvae.
Remove overgrown vegetation from your garden, including bushes, yard waste and unwanted trees.
Clean out rubbish or debris around your house. Mosquitoes tend to see these as a big ‘welcome’ sign inviting them in.
Regularly check your yard for any breeding sites you may have overlooked.
Finally, talk to your neighbors about your mosquito problems. Chances are, if you’ve got Asian Tigers, they do, too. Your efforts will be far more effective if the entire neighborhood takes action to discourage breeding.
If it turns out you have a major mosquito infestation on your hands, it may be time to call a licensed pest management professional and contact your local or state health authority.
Now, on to the last of our 6 invasive insects for the series. Let’s take a look at the Formosan Subterranean Termites.
What Are Formosan Subterranean Termites?
Let’s face it: Not much strikes fear into the heart of a homeowner more than the news that they have termites. I know. I had to deal with them once and it was unpleasant and inconvenient. It can also be costly, if they’ve managed to really take hold.
By one estimate, termites damage over half-a-million U.S. homes every year, and “residents spend an estimated $5 billion annually to control termites and repair termite damage.” When it comes to the Formosan Subterranean Termite the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that “U.S. residents spend at least $1 billion on Formosan termite control and repairs each year. Some experts estimate the number is closer to $2 billion.”
This particular termite was first described in Taiwan early in the 20th century, hence its name. However, the prevailing consensus is that this pest was “endemic to southern China . . . [and] apparently transported to Japan prior to the 17th century and to Hawaii in the late 19th century.”
Termites Destroy Homes
Whatever else may be said about them, these termites are extremely destructive, and not just because they are aggressive.
Their danger is actually twofold in nature: First, Formosan Subterranean Termites are known to build enormous colonies. Compared to other subterranean termite species- the nest of which usually contain some one-hundred thousand individuals, a single Formosan Subterranean Termite nest could be home to several million insects.
Second, whether it’s wood in a forest or the building materials that prop up your house, a colony of these individuals can devour as much as 10-12 ounces of wood in a single day (particularly that which contains cellulose). Multiply that by three months and you can see how easily these critters can do serious damage to a house, or practically any other structure made largely of wood.
What makes matters even worse (at least for your neighbors) is that the Formosan Subterranean Termite has a large foraging range, due mostly to the large size of its nests. Unfortunately, once these termites have become established in one particular locale, they’re very difficult to eradicate.
Fortunately, for a large portion of the United States, Formosan Subterranean Termites are not generally found north of 35th parallel ̶ largely because their because the eggs will not hatch below about 68 °F. That means that these termites only pose a risk if you live south of Tennessee and Nevada.
As a closing warning, let me quote from a paper published by the AgriLife Extension of Texas A&M University:
“The damage caused by Formosan termites differs from that of drywood termites.
Drywood termites live in wooden structures above ground and leave fecal pellets
in their feeding galleries. Formosan termites form mud tubes or carton when they
forage into structures. When searching for food and moisture, Formosan termites,
like other subterranean termites, may chew through non-cellulose material such
as asphalt, plaster, rubber and plastic. Their damage can result in home fires
caused by electrical shorts.”
Fair warning, indeed!
How to Get Rid of Formosan Subterranean Termites
According to the USDA, “each year, over $1 billion is spent in the U.S. for preventive and remedial treatment and to repair damage caused by Formosan termites.” The problem with Formosan termite colonies is their sheer size. You can try to eliminate them on your own, but you’d be well advised to bring in a professional. Hunting down termite nests is labor-intensive, time consuming business, and a PMP can save you a lot of problems further down the line.
If you still prefer to get rid of termites on your own, here are some tips:
Eliminate moisture indoors and reduce humidity levels in crawl spaces, attics and basements.
Divert outside water sources away from your home’s foundation.
Prevent termite access by making sure that your home’s downspouts, gutters and splash blocks are working properly.
Store firewood at least 20 feet away from your house.
Maintain (at least) a one-inch gap between the soil and the wooden portions of your house.
Regularly inspect your foundation for signs of mud tubes and damaged wood.
One caveat here: Unless your home is massively infested, try to avoid using any form of fumigation. First, it’s rarely 100% successful and may require a number of (often expensive) treatments. Second, the chemicals used in fumigation products are usually residual and may migrate to other parts of your home, which is something you should try to avoid.
Sterifab: Do-It-Yourself, But Do It Like a Pro
Nearly all of the invasive species we’ve dealt with in this series of blogs will quickly succumb if they are treated with Sterifab. But remember, dealing with ant colonies is a lot different than trying to eradicate termite colonies. The latter may require a lot of searching, and maybe even digging, so be prepared. In fact, bringing in a pest management professional for termite elimination is by far the smartest way to go.
So, yes, do-it-yourself pest control is possible but we recommend you do your homework before you decide to tackle an insect infestation of any kind. As you have doubtless learned over the last three blogs, every insect is different, and each one abides by its own rules of survival. Take a moment to check out our blog to find out how various bug species can be effectively dealt with.