New breed of termites invading South Tampa

A new type of termite is invading the Tampa area, experts at the University of Florida warned Friday.

The Asian subterranean termite was first spotted in South Tampa in March and has now been reported about a dozen times in the same area, according to Dr. Thomas Chouvenc, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Florida.

"Just two months ago, we had confirmation that established a colony of Asian subterranean termites in parts of Tampa. [They] have swarms and are probably in the process of making more colonies in some of the neighborhoods in South Tampa," Chouvenc told FOX 13. "This has been the northernmost location of known infestation of the Asians subterranean termite."

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Until this year, the Tampa area have been home to two species of termite: Formosa subterranean termites, which build large colonies outside homes before invading the structures, and dry wood termites, which build their colonies inside the walls and can inflict years of damage on a home.

"[These] are the three most successful invasive termites in the entire world," Chouvenc said. "These are really good at piggybacking on our own activity. We are fully responsible for spreading them out."

Chouvenc said this is the time of year when termites are most active. Homeowners can often find swarms of the insects outside their homes.

Gaylee Mendenhall, who lives in South Tampa, has been dealing with termites for about four years, costing her upward of $10,000. The bugs have chewed through her walls and cabinets.

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She's now preparing to "tent" her home to fumigate it.

"They are swarming every day," Mendenhall said. "I live in a frame house that was built in 1952, I'm afraid it's going to come crumbling down around me."

Mendenall has been dealing with at least two of the tell-tale signs of dry wood termite problems: Small pellets on the floor and near the windows, along with a growing pile of termite wings.

Couvenc said, subterranean termites often leave behind so-called "mud tubes" along exterior walls of homes.

"If you live in the area that is known to have heavy infestation of any of the species I just mentioned, then you should pay attention because it's going to happen to you eventually," Couvenc said.

Couvenc recommends homeowners use a pest control company to regularly treat for the insects. He said, for subterranean termites, there are treatments that can be placed around homes to stop the bugs from entering. There are also baits people can place in the ground that will eventually kill the colony.