Mating season begins for ‘super-termites’ that target Petah Tikva

Formosan termite, which arrived in Israel in 2020, engages in nuptial flights during summer months, can cause significant damage to property

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Formosan termites. (Courtesy, Tomer Lev, Total Pest Control)
Formosan termites. (Courtesy, Tomer Lev, Total Pest Control)

So-called “super-termites,” one of the most destructive pests in the world, have begun their crucial reproductive phase, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Petah Tikva Municipality warned Tuesday.

Coptotermes formosanus, or the Formosan termite, named for Formosa in Taiwan, have started to engage in nuptial flights for reproduction, which occur from May to July at sunset.

During the flights, the termites partner up and build nests, usually in moist earth at the base of trees.

Though they are not harmful to humans, they can cause massive damage to property. The ministry recommended that residents close their window screens and turn off lights that may attract them into their homes in the evening.

The pest, which arrived in Israel in 2020, is most prominent in the central city of Petah Tikvah and the surrounding communities.

The Petah Tikva Municipality set up a designated hotline 106 for people to call if they locate termites.

If they suspect the pest has caused damage to their property, residents should call a licensed exterminator, and avoid removing the affected items by themselves, the municipality said.

The species’ destructive capability comes from the size of its colonies, which can number several million members. The queen termite, which lives for some 15 years, lays up to 2,000 eggs each day. A colony can reportedly eat up to 400 grams (13 ounces) of wood daily, rendering buildings insecure in a matter of months.

The Environmental Protection Ministry has devised a two-stage plan to combat the infestation.

The first stage, which is budgeted at NIS 1.7 million ($460,000), involves locating and monitoring the pests with specially designed sensors.

In the next step, the ministry plans to use baits based on insect growth inhibitors to exterminate nests — considered a low-toxic method.

The ministry has urged the public to come forward if they identify the species so they can monitor its spread throughout the country.

The Formosan termite occurs naturally in southern China. By hitching lifts on ships, it has since traveled throughout the world, gaining an international foothold during the last century.

In the US, it appeared in four isolated port cities in the 1960s and has since spread to all the southeastern states.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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