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How Did South American Termites Wind Up In New Zealand?

How Did South American Termites Wind Up In New Zealand?

In the island country of New Zealand, termites are considered one of the most devastating of all insect pests. Agricultural officials with New Zealand’s Government take great care to prevent invasive insects from accessing the island, and termites are the primary concern. The nearby continent of Australia is home to many different species of termite, some of which are highly destructive to man-made structures. Due to Australia’s close proximity to New Zealand, preventing Australian termites and other Australian insects from entering New Zealand is a top priority. Given the strict attitude that New Zealanders have toward the control of termites, any termites that could invade the country would have been spotted promptly by pest control officials. This is why it was strange to discover thousands of non-native termites infesting a residential home in New Zealand. After examining some specimens, researchers discovered that the strange-looking termites are native to South America and Australia.

The home that had been infested with these exotic termites ius located in the populous New Zealand city of  Waikanae. It may seem clear to most people that these termites must have originated from nearby Australia, but there are reasons to doubt this scenario. The termites may have originated from South America, as the two residents of the infested home returned from the continent ten years ago after a long period of overseas work. The termites may have hitched a ride to Australia along with the home’s returning owners a decade ago. During the entire ten year period, the residents never discovered a single termite until one year ago. It may have taken ten years for a few reproductive termites to establish a new colony.

Eventually an exterminator arrived at the home in order to assess the damage caused by the infestation. The home’s damaged condition warranted a call to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in order to have them investigate the infestation. According to officials with the ministry, the termite colony will probably not go on to infest another home. The area surrounding the home will have to be thoroughly treated with certain insecticides for a period of ten years in order to ensure the destruction of the non-native termite colony. This ten year eradication program will cost New Zealand’s Government four hundred thousand dollars.

Do you think that signs of termite activity would have been noticed sooner than ten years if the termites had hitched a ride to New Zealand from South America?