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The eastern subterranean termite has inhabited the northeast United States well before European colonists arrived on the North American continent several centuries ago. However, progressively warmer temperatures resulting from climate change, and the proliferation of water-runoff and heated structures in the northeast has made the region more hospitable to several termite species. Researchers have confirmed that the eastern subterranean termite population in the northeast has been growing, and soon another native subterranean termite species, Reticulitermes virginicus, may spread into Massachusetts. In fact, researchers believe that eastern subterranean termite (R. flavipes) and R. virginicus populations may already overlap within Massachusetts and other northeastern states, but confirming this is difficult, as the two species are nearly identical in appearance, behavior and habitat preference. The most recent surveys have confirmed R. virginicus colonies as existing as far north as southern Connecticut, and even the highly destructive Formosan subterranean termite (C. formosanus) has advanced as far north as Virginia. This may become a big problem for residents of the northeast in the future, as very few homes in the region have been treated with termiticide and/or physical termite barriers. These barriers are the only effective means of preventing homes from becoming infested with termites, but luckily, newly developed, but still largely unavailable termite detection methods may save homes in the northeast from a future termite epidemic.

At the moment, only a small minority of America’s 105 million single-family homes have been treated for termites, and even fewer residential properties have seen the application of termiticide and/or physical barriers during initial construction. This is especially true in the northeast, as the region is already saturated with homes that were built long before termite barriers were developed. Although termite barriers can still be applied around homes in the northeast in order to prevent termite infestations, there is no easy way of telling how widespread subterranean termite colonies have already become below urban and residential areas in the region. However, many pest control developers are touting the benefits of infrared technology as a termite detection method. All living organisms emit infrared heat rays, and many widely available electronic devices, like night-vision, already make use of infrared technology for detecting heat within obscured areas. Although this technology is still in its infancy for pest control purposes in most parts of the world, one particular company in Australia has been successfully using infrared detection devices to track and ultimately control termite pests for several years.

Do you believe that termite infestation rates will continue to increase in the northeast US?