Monday, 30 March 2015

'Super' Termite Hybrid May Wreak Havoc on Florida

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | March 30, 2015 07:37am ET

The two most invasive termite species in the world are shacking up, producing a potentially powerful new termite hybrid in south Florida, a new study finds. The "super" pest can reproduce more quickly than either parent species and might have a larger range, opening it to new habitats, the researchers said.

Together, the Asian (Coptotermes gestroi) and Formosan (Coptotermes formosanus) subterranean termite species cause an estimated $40 billion worth of damage worldwide, the researchers said. The Asian termite is from tropical Southeast Asia, while the Formosan hails from the more temperate China and Taiwan. Both types of termite have evolved separately for hundreds of thousands of years, but now human movement and trade have brought the invasive speciestogether in Taiwan, Hawaii and South Florida.

Researchers in South Florida have observed the two mating, raising concerns the hybrid offspring might have a temperature tolerance that stretches from North Carolina to Brazil, said the study's lead researcher, Thomas Chouvenc, an assistant research scientist of entomology at the University of Florida.

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