Break the Chain "Wood" You Believe?

Created 3/12/2006 (3/12/2006) For most people, natural disasters are media events that are devastating, but they go away when the newscaster signs off. We don't (or choose not to) realize that events in some remote part of the country or world can and usually do affect us, often in ways we wouldn't suspect. This chain letter and variants of it serve to remind us of how interconnected the world is. But how real is the threat it warns of?

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

For all you home owners (or friends of home owners) who do a lot of landscaping, this came by way of the LSU dept of Ag....scary termites! WARNING If you buy mulch this spring and summer, make sure you know where it came from.

If you use mulch around your house be very careful about buying mulch this year. After the Hurricane in New Orleans many trees were blown over. These trees were then turned into mulch and the state is trying to get rid of tons and tons of this mulch to any state or company who will come and haul it away. So it will be showing up in Home Depot and Lowes at dirt cheap prices with one huge problem; Formosan Termites will be the bonus in many of those bags. New Orleans is one of the few areas in the country where the Formosan Termites has gotten a stronghold and most of the trees blown down were already badly infested with those termites. Now we may have the worst case of transporting a problem to all parts of the country that we have ever had. These termites can eat a house in no time at all and there apparently is no good control against them, so tell your friends that own homes to avoid cheap mulch and know were it came from.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

A common theme in urban legendry and e-mail chain letters is that our vanity can and often does lead to our undoing. In this chain letter, the underlying message is that our efforts to make our homes look better could lead to their ultimate destruction. The Formosan Subterranean termite was introduced to New Orleans and other coastal towns after World War II, but weren't identified as a unique pest until 1966. By then, they had become well established throughout the region. Trying to control their spread has been a major initiative for Louisiana officials. But the biggest threat comes from more utilitarian application than cosmetic.

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On October 3, 2005 - about one month after hurricanes Katrina and Rita dealt a deadly one-two punch to the U.S. Gulf region - the commissioner of agriculture in Louisiana imposed a quarantine for the Formosan subterranean termite in 12 parishes. Among the many conditions of the quarantines was a provision that "movement of wood or cellulose material is prohibited unless either (1) it is fumigated or treated for Formosan subterranean termites and is approved for movement by the commissioner or his designee(s) or (2) written authorization is given by the commissioner or his designee(s) for the movement of untreated wood or cellulose material from the quarantined parishes."

The quarantine also requires that new construction and re-construction of wood structures be inspected for termites, that temporary housing and other structures could not be removed from the areas without inspection, and that architectural components salvaged from structures in the area not be sold or re-used unless treated for termites.

The National Pest Management Association further clarifies that the spread of the Formosan Subterranean termite via mulch from southern Louisiana is unlikely:

There has been a flurry of internet traffic related to an October 2005 press release on Louisiana State University's website regarding the potential spread of Formosan subterranean termites (FST) in mulch being produced from infested trees in hurricane effected areas of Louisiana.

This email erroneously implies that large retail home stores will purchase and re-sell bags of this mulch around the country – thereby spreading FST to currently infestation-free areas.

In fact, Louisiana's Department of Agriculture & Forestry (LDAF) has established a quarantine that requires all woody debris in the quarantined (hurricane-effected) areas to be shipped to an approved landfill within the designated quarantine area. All contractors that are mulching and hauling the debris know the regulations and are abiding by them. LDAF has asked that anyone with knowledge debris moving out of a quarantine area to contact their 24-hour hotline.

Nonetheless, the NPMA does warn that mulch and termite infestation are connected, regardless of where the mulch comes from:

None of this should imply that mulch and termites are not connected at all. Mulch can be a source of termite infestations in and around your home. The best defense for homeowners is to keep ALL mulch away from their home’s foundation. Other tips to avoid attracting termites include:

  • As most termites are drawn to moisture, avoid water accumulation near your home’s foundation. Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.

  • Quickly repair house damage from a leaky roof or window as termites can thrive in this moisture.

  • Never bury wood scraps or waste lumber in the yard, especially near the home. Remove old tree stumps and roots around and beneath the home.

  • Most importantly, eliminate any wood contact with the soil. Maintaining at least a 1-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the home is ideal.

Break this chain.

What Do You Think?

Category: Real, But...
References: National Pest Management Association, Inc., LSU AgCenter (1), LSU AgCenter (2)

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