BAF spends $419k in eradication of termites

The Asian Subterranean Termites (AST). Picture: SUPPLIED/Prestaserv

ABOUT $419,708 has been spent by the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji to contain and eradicate Asian Subterranean Termites (AST) in parts of Fiji.

The Asian Subterranean Termites (AST) – also known as Coptotermes gestroi – is exotic to Fiji and has caused massive damages to homes, schools.

AST is the second most destructive subterranean termite in the world.

Incursions have been recorded in countries in South East Asia, Hawaii, and Florida where populations have established for more than 30 years and damage costs have amounted to billions of dollars.

According to the authority’s head of communication Riten Gosai, the expenses under the AST project included chemical purchase for the elimination of termites and awareness programs in Lautoka and Labasa.

It also included the transportation of personnel to sites which were infested with termites, travelling and subsistence allowance and equipment.

Mr Gosai said the Declaration of Biosecurity Emergency Areas for AST was important as it allowed BAF to take legal action against the public who do not comply with it.

He adds that under the declaration one is not allowed to transport termite host material from one place to another as it may lead to the spread of termites into other areas.

Mr Gosai said from January to August this year, they had received 1900 complaints of termites which was less compared with last year where they received 4900 complaints.

In late 2009 and early 2010, Fiji saw an outbreak of the Asian Subterranean Termites.

The infestation then was mainly in Lautoka.

About Asian Subterranean termites
Asian Subterranean termites build their nest underground. They socially organize themselves into three groups which include reproductives, soldiers and workers.
The Reproductives lay the eggs. Most colonies have one pair of primary reproductives; the king and the queen. A queen can live for about 20 years and lay 1,000 eggs a day. A colony can have about 60,000 to 1 million termites in it. Only the king and queen have eyes. The rest of the termites are blind and navigate using scent and moisture trails. Kings and queens are usually darker than the rest of the termites in the colony.

The Soldiers is tasked to defend the nest from invaders, usually ants and termites from other colonies. The wide range of jaw types and large heads provide means that effectively block narrow termite tunnels against ant entry. A tunnel-blocking soldier can rebuff attacks from many ants. Soldiers’ heads are often darker than their bodies. They can exude a white toxic fluid for defense purpose. They also produce a rattling sound, a mechanism used by soldier to warn off nest-mates by banging their head against the walls. You may hear the sound during a quiet night if your house is infested with this species.

The Workers are a milky or cream color. They have smaller, saw-toothed mandibles, which allow them to take small bites of wood and carry building materials. As their name suggests they do most of the work in the colony. They dig tunnels, gather food and care for young. They also feed the king, queen and soldiers, who are unable to feed themselves. Workers and soldiers are sterile.

The Asian Subterranean termites love moisture and like to live in cool, dark, damp and moist places. They feed on cellulose found in wood, paper products, clothes and trees such as mango, lemon, coconut and cassava etc. These termites spread to places with infested materials or fly around in swarms. They usually fly in large numbers- hundreds to thousands- in the afternoons and are attracted to light. They do not bite people.

Ways to detect termites:
Termites are a hidden, secretive and silent problem during the initial stages of infestation. It is precisely because of this that the problem remains undetected by most homeowners until much later when the signs of termites become visually apparent. Knowing how to identify these signs and associate them with termites can save people from a lot of trouble. Here are some common signs as a warning of termite presence:

  • a swarm at your residence is an indicator that harmful termites are active. Termites usually swarm in and around the house, especially near sources of light after rain;
  • presence of mud shelters from ground to woodwork or on foundation walls.
  • sawdust-like “powder” near doors and windows.
  • shed wings left near doors and windows;
  • tiny holes on wood surfaces and
  • paint that has started to bubble on wood surfaces

What can you do to protect your home:

  • ┬áif you discover a termite infested area, do not pour kerosene or spray insecticides but contact the Termites Operations Command Centre or the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) Office for help;
  • do not remove and transport any wooden materials, plants, furniture, personal effects and soil from infested areas;
  • maintain hygiene and cleanliness around compounds and inside the houses. Allow fresh air and sunshine to flow freely. Inspect your homes, trees and compounds thoroughly;
  • water puddles must be drained away from homes;
  • drainage and piping systems need to be cleaned and maintained;
  • do not disturb and disrupt colonies of termites as they will disperse to other areas;
  • ensure that the timber used has been treated properly;
  • ensure that the wooden building floor not to be less than 800mm/32inch from ground level;
  • ceiling not to be less than 2.4mtrs/8 ft from floor.
  • all framing timbers to be pink primer & pink priming timber edges before nailing.
  • concrete building with wooden floor to have proper air ventilation and ceiling to have air ventilation.
  • painting is very important it protects the timber to last longer.
  • windows and curtains to be open in the day to allow light and air into the house.
  • concrete floor to be of proper standard
  • report any signs of termite activity and symptoms of termite infestations in home to Termites Operations Command Centre or (BAF) Office.

*Additional information obtained from the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji website.

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