Mother’s Day brings to mind spending time with family and friends, perhaps celebrating Mom or that special person in your life at one of Jacksonville’s many parks or gardens. For those interested in insects, the days leading up to and following Mother’s Day also brings swarms of termites. If you are one of the many residents who enjoy spending time outdoors in Jacksonville, take heed, as our urban tree canopy is under siege by the invasive Formosan subterranean termite.
Formosan termites are extremely destructive. They can live in homes and buildings and living trees. When colonies become too large for the place they are living, they fly out at night, find a mate and try and start a new colony. You may have seen them swarming the past few weeks. They will fly between the end of April until the beginning of July during the evening. They are attracted to lights, including your porch light and the lights you leave on in your house at night. It is a good idea to shut your house and porch lights off at this time of the year so you aren’t attracting termites to your home.
You may have noticed some trees in parks and right-of-ways with silver tags. This tag means that the tree is part of an ongoing tree inventory project and the tag is a unique identification number for inventory purposes. Trees unfortunately do not live forever and many of the trees in our neighborhoods are reaching the end of their lifespans and have defects. These are the characteristics that attract termites. The termites in these trees are treatable, but if the tree has termites that usually means that the tree is hollow in the center and the structure may be compromised. Every tree with termites in Jacksonville will not be removed, but it is this concern and love for our trees that has driven the city of Jacksonville and the University of Florida to partner to try and protect our urban tree canopy through the Jacksonville Formosan Termite Task Force.
The task force has more than 100 termite monitoring stations placed throughout Jacksonville. The stations do not attract termites, but we have partnered with JEA and placed the stations on light poles and lift stations where termites are attracted. Weekly volunteers change the glue cards and drop them by the UF/IFAS Extension Office to be processed. We identify the insects and look for termites. We have also partnered with JFRD so every fire station in Jacksonville has a termite station near their building. Mosquito control is also partnering with us and providing samples from their light traps where they collect mosquitoes.
This project is community driven and would not be possible without the numerous volunteers and community support. UF/IFAS Extension – Duval County would like to thank the companies and individuals who provided monetary contributions to make the monitoring stations, they are: Peninsular Pest Control, McCalls Service, Turner Pest Control, Councilman Jim Love, and North Shore HOA. Other companies and groups that have provided support for the project include Lindsey Pest Services, Duval County Master Gardeners, Alachua County 4-H, Riverside-Avondale Preservation and residents, and Trads Pest Control.
The project runs May 1-June 30. All of the data will be processed and can be seen on our website at duval.ifas.ufl.edu/termites.shtml. You can also view where all of the monitoring stations are throughout Jacksonville on an interactive map. The project will help determine where Formosan termites are in the greatest numbers and aid the city in deciding how to best tackle protecting our beautiful urban tree canopy.
Residents are also welcome to join in the project as citizen scientists through our Termite Tracker Project. You can build your own DIY termite monitoring station with instructions on our website. Basic supplies and glue boards can be purchased at your local hardware store. Make sure you place the station near a light, but preferably not on your house. Change the card weekly or drop it by one of our drop off points and send it to the UF/IFAS Duval County Extension Office and we will let you know if you find any termites. This is a great project to do with youth or as a neighborhood association.
To help protect your home from termites, the University of Florida recommends that you:
• Get a termite service agreement with a local pest management professional and make sure you understand it. Check our website for more information about service agreements.
• Clean out your gutters and extend them away from the bottom of your house.
• Leave a space around the bottom of your house so it is easier to inspect for termites.
• Move wood piles away from the side of your house.
• Turn off porch and house lights during swarm season.
• Direct sprinklers away from your house.
Erin Harlow is a commercial horticulture agent with the University of Florida Extension Service.