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June 2, 2021 2:14 pm
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Specimen of Invasive ‘Super-Termite’ Captured in Israel, Raising Hopes of Controlling the Species

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The Formosan termite (Coptotermes formosanus). Photo: US Department of Agriculture.

A specimen of an insect species so damaging that it is sometimes called the “super-termite” has been captured in Israel, giving environmental protection officials a chance to wipe out the invasive species.

The Formosan termite (Coptotermes formosanus), is believed to originate in southern China or Taiwan, but has spread widely throughout the world, mainly due to its aggression and voracious appetite.

Israeli news site N12 reported that the species was found to be present in Israel eight months ago in the city of Petah Tikvah. On Wednesday morning, following an extensive search, an underground monitoring station managed to capture a living specimen.

The capture is significant, as the only way to control the species is to feed a growth-inhibiting hormone to an individual, which then spreads it to the rest of the colony.

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The “super-termite” breeds in the millions and builds colonies underground that can quickly infest buildings and other artificial structures. According to the website Pest World, their colonies can include 350,000 workers alone, and their queens can lay 1,000 eggs per day. The bugs eat wood at a fantastic rate, with a colony being able to consume more than an ounce every 24 hours.

In the US alone, the species is believed to cause $5 billion a year in damage. In the state of Hawaii, for example, the Formosan termite is responsible for 50% of all infestations in high-rise structures.

Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection told N12 that, in the coming days, the termites will release “swarmers” — winged individuals that emerge from the underground colonies and take to the air for reproductive purposes.

Gal Zagron, head of the Pest Control and Management Division at the ministry, said of the swarming, “We are talking about a once a year opportunity to watch a termite burst out of the nest in the ground and in trees and fly into the air.”

“Because we’re talking about a new invasive species,” she explained, “it is important to immediately locate every place where there are Formosan termite colonies, in order to try and prevent their damaging spread and establishment in the entire country.”

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