From the Field: Termite infestation? Not here

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Fears of an explosion of Formosan subterranean termites due to hurricane debris from southern Louisiana are unfounded, LSU entomology professor Dennis Ring said.

&8220;People are afraid the state is trying to get rid of (debris) any way it can &8212; this is not true because it&8217;s quarantined,&8221; he said.

On Oct. 3, days after Hurricane Katrina tore through the coastal region, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry established a mandatory quarantine for all wood and cellulose products &8212; paper or paper products &8212; from 12 affected parishes.

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Before any wood or cellulose products are allowed out of the quarantined area, it must be fumigated for Formosan subterranean termites and approved for movement.

Katrina can be blamed for much of the state&8217;s current malaise, but one thing it didn&8217;t create was the termite problem &8212; for years, southern Louisiana has been plagued by the ravenous wood-chewers.

With much of the devastated region now sitting by the proverbial curb waiting to be hauled away, there are potentially a whole lot of Formosans ready for travel.

A good way to get rid of unwanted wood is to grind it up and sell it as mulch, one of the prime aims of the quarantine. &8220;As far as a huge glut of mulch coming on the market because of Louisiana, that&8217;s false,&8221; Ring said. &8220;Because it&8217;s quarantined.&8221;

Basically, Ring is saying it&8217;s OK to go about your spring gardening preparations, mulchy or not. But just because there is no infested wood getting out of southern Louisiana, that doesn&8217;t mean you shouldn&8217;t take precautions around your house, just in case.

One of the most important is to make sure garden mulch is used at least three feet away from the house. &8220;If it&8217;s too close, termites can get in the wood and you won&8217;t be able to see the tunnels,&8221; LSU AgCenter Concordia Parish County Agent Glen Daniels said.

Although Daniels said there isn&8217;t an infestation problem currently in the Miss-Lou, &8220;you always have some danger and need to be careful.&8221;

The best way to protect your home is to have it inspected and treated.

Depending on the square footage of the first floor of your home, professionally licensed initial treatment usually cost in the hundreds &8212; not thousands &8212; of dollars.

A state of change

On March 10, LSU AgCenter was granted permission by the LSU Board of Supervisors to do what it has to do in order to pare down its budget.

Daniels said he has heard nothing since the announcement regarding impending cuts to the local office.

And no news is good news.

&8220;I think Concordia Parish is going to be pretty much safe, although I think other parishes are going to get cut,&8221; he said.

Daniels said the parish&8217;s decision to finance 10 percent of the office&8217;s salaries has a lot to do with his optimism.

&8220;It shows the parish appreciate the service they receive,&8221; he said. &8220;It really helped us, and we owe the people of Concordia Parish a great big thank you.&8221;

The center currently employs 1,250 people statewide, some 200 fewer than five years ago.

LSU AgCenter Chancellor William Richardson said in a statement changes that would allow tenured faculty to be fired were short-term fixes.

And he said the center has to find a way to bring its mission back in line with its financial resources.

&8220;I do not know the ramifications of the plan,&8221; he said. &8220;But I know we cannot continue to cannibalize ourselves.&8221;