State Has No Aloha Spirit for Termites from Hawaii

Alan Hardy is suspicious of anything wooden arriving from Hawaii.

Hardy is a Sacramento-based specialist on insects with the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

He works with customs and border inspectors to keep out unwanted insects.

This includes what he terms the "tremendously destructive" Formosan termite now established in Hawaii. Colonies have also been found in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas, but Hardy is more concerned with a possible infestation from Hawaii.

The Formosan termite eats and breeds faster than the local varieties, he explained. Physically, the Formosan termite looks much like local varieties. It would have to be identified by a professional.

Although termites can arrive in any wooden object, including wooden legs and tiki figurines, the most probable form of entry, Hardy said, would be in furniture or wooden shipping crates.

Margaret S. Collins, research associate at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, said the termite is known as "the condominium eater" in Florida.

One experimental method of stopping the termites, she said, is by implanting chemicals into the colony that cause it to produce more soldiers than workers. The remaining workers can't support the soldiers and the colony starves.

Walter Ebeling, UCLA professor emeritus of entomology, said that should the Formosan termites invade California, pest control firms would have to use the same chemical methods they use against current varieties.

He warned that these methods would be less successful with Formosan termites.

Hardy said that "while we do the best we can to guard against the entry into California of these and other harmful insects, we must depend upon the cooperation of the public in checking carefully items they bring, or ship, into the state."

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