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Super Termites Are Not Science Fiction: What Homeowners Need To Know About The Invasive Insects

For homeowners, termites are a major threat to the structural integrity of their house. Even a hint of the presence of the pests can send people into a panic as they think of the potential damage the insects can cause. In fact, Americans spend over $2 billion each year on managing termite infestations.

In recent years, researchers and pest control experts have seen the rise of even more robust termites. You may have seen news reports about these "super termites." If you are worried about an infestation from these critters, also known as hybrid termites, the following primer on super termites can help answer questions you may have about the pests.

What Is A Hybrid Termite?

A hybrid insect is simply a cross-breed of two different species that are genetically distinct. In many cases, the hybridization occurs when a strong, invasive species of a type of animal breeds with a native species, such as the African honey bee with the Western honey bee--a blend that created the infamous killer bee.

However, super termites are a mix of two invasive species, a combination that creates an insect that can cause significantly more damage than your average, non-mixed breed termite.

The specific mix comes from breeding between Asian subterranean termites and Formosan subterranean termites. Scientists began noticing the hybrid in 2013 and 2014. They develop at twice the rate of non-hybrid termites.

Where Do They Come From?

As with many cases of invasive species entering a new territory, super termites arrived in the U.S. via human activity. The Asian subterranean termite originated in the tropics of Southeast Asia and has spread to parts of the Caribbean and Brazil. The Formosan subterranean termite comes from China and made its way to the Southeastern U.S.

Before the hybrid termite was noticed, researchers thought that the two species had different swarming seasons and did not interact.As of 2015, sightings of the hybrid of the two have been recorded in many parts of the world including the United States. Any homeowner who has dealt with a termite infestation probably shudders at the thought of a super termite invading their home.

Is Your Home In Danger?

So far, the super termite has been confined to the Southeast. However, scientists are worried that the super termite could migrate to others areas. Since a termite colony can live up to 20 years, existing colonies of single species termites that are invaded may harbor the hybrids for a long time.

After years, adult super termites may emerge and begin to wreak havoc on buildings. If a colony produces winged adult super termites, the insects can also spread to other areas and mate.

Based on current research, scientists believe that the super termite needs a tropical climate to survive. So, if you live outside of the Southeast, you may not have to worry about the hybrids coming to your area.

Keep in mind though, scientists are still studying the behavior of these invasive insects. In the words of University of Florida researcher Thomas Chouvence: "Termites will do things you just don't expect."

Can You Protect Your Home From Hybrid Termites?

Scientists recommend using baits and liquid insecticides to ward off termites. However, if you have a survived a serious termite infestation, you know that the best mode of action is to get professional help from an exterminator because DIY efforts will probably not work in the long run. Furthermore, if you live in an area where super termites have been discovered, it is better to not take any chances with store-bought products that might not work effectively.

A pest control expert's knowledge of building construction coupled with their access to specialized tools and commercial-grade insecticides is crucial in preventing termites from entering your home or managing an infestation. Learn more by talking to a professional.