Researchers Identified a New and Highly Destructive Termite Species in California

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Israel Alvarez

Owner @ Insight Pest Management

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Termite activitySeveral termite species can be found throughout California, but not all are considered pests to structures and wood items. Subterranean termites are the most destructive group of termites in the state, followed closely by drywood termites. Multiple dampwood termite species inhabit California, such as the Pacific dampwood termite, which can be found on occasion in Ventura County. Dampwood termites are not as destructive as their subterranean and drywood counterparts in southern California; instead, dampwood termites are most active along the Pacific Coast and in the rainy Pacific Northwest region. 

When compared to all other termite species in California, the western subterranean termite inflicts the greatest amount of annual property damage in the state, and this species is frequently found within Ventura County homes. However, recent research indicates that a newly identified and similar looking termite species in California, Reticulitermes okanaganensis, may be responsible for inflicting a significant amount of property damage that had been previously attributed to the western subterranean termite in the state. This is especially likely when it comes to termite damage that has occured in more inland regions of California, as western drywood termites show a preference for coastal locations, while R. okanaganensis has shown a preference for hotter and drier desert conditions. In any case, the habitat distribution for both of these species overlap, and each can be found infesting homes in Ventura County. While the highly destructive Formosan subterranean termite has appeared in Ventura County in the past, this species is rare in most of southern California due to government-led efforts to halt the further spread of this invasive termite species. 

The western subterranean termite and the eastern subterranean termite are the two most economically costly termite species in the US. The habitat of western subterranean termites is limited to the westernmost states, while the eastern subterranean termite’s resilience to a variety of environmental conditions have allowed this species to become the most widespread termite species in the US. Generally, the eastern subterranean termite’s habitat is not thought to extend far west of the Mississippi River, but several reports have documented these termites as infesting structures in southern California. However, eastern subterranean termites are considered rare in the state. For residents of Ventura County, the most threatening termite pests include western subterranean termites, arid-land subterranean termites, and dark western drywood termites.

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