Expert committee formed to deal with arrival of Formosan termite, which can cause serious property damage and even power outages.

Formosan termite alates.
Formosan termite alates.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Zafrir Rinat 23.09.2020

One of the world’s most problematic invasive insects – the Formosan termite, which can cause serious property damage – was recently identified in Israel. Samples were found in Petah Tikva and sent to the Health Ministry’s entomological laboratory, which identified the invasive species. The Environmental Protection Ministry said it will try to quickly locate all of the termite’s colonies to block it from spreading and taking hold across the country.

At this stage, it’s unclear how the insect arrived. The first reports on its presence in Israel were recently provided by Tomer Lo, an expert on the treatment of termite damage. On Wednesday morning, the Environmental Protection Ministry announced the establishment of an expert committee to address the issue. The committee includes representatives from the Health and Agriculture Ministries, academic researchers and experts in pest control.

The committee members are to survey the most effective methods for getting rid of the insect and provide exterminators and local authorities with guidance on it. They are also to make recommendations for preventive measures that can be taken. The Environmental Protection Ministry is calling on the authorities, the public and exterminators to report any suspected cases of invasion by this termite species.

The Formosan termite originates in Southeast Asia. It is considered a “super termite,” whose eating and reproductive capacities are the highest of any known type of termite. A single colony can contain millions of termites, which can travel up to 100 meters from the nest. The termite is especially active in warm and humid conditions. In some U.S. states, it is the pest that causes the most financial damage to private and public property alike. Billions of dollars are spent annually in the U.S. on preventive measures, extermination, damage repairs and more. The damage done by the termites can also cause property values to plunge.

“The Formosan termite harms living and dead wood,” says Dr. Gilad Ben Tzvi, director of the entomology lab at Tel Aviv University’s Steinhart Museum of Natural History. “Often its presence goes unnoticed for a long period of time, until wooden floors collapse or holes appear in plaster walls. It destroys railroad tracks and telephone poles. Apart from the damage it does to wooden products and structures, it also damages underground communications and electricity lines and causes power outages.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry’s action on the matter will require coordination with the local authorities, chiefly in Petah Tikva. It will also require cooperation with customs inspectors and Agriculture Ministry inspectors at border crossings in order to prevent the entry of items that could be infested. The ministry has requested that municipalities and the public be vigilant and report any suspected presence of the termites.