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Formosan Termites
 
Formosan Termites in Mulch from New Orleans
Hurricane Debris

Netlore Archive:  Email rumor warns that Formosan termites from the New Orleans area are being spread to different parts of the U.S. in cheap garden mulch made from Hurricane Katrina wood debris

 

This email is a hoax!

SAMPLE OF EMAIL STIRRING UP CONCERN!

Subject: Fw: important if you buy mulch this year

 If you use mulch around your house be very careful about buying mulch this year. After the Hurricane in New Orleans many trees were blown over. These trees were then turned into mulch and the state is trying to get rid of tons and tons of this mulch to any state or company who will come and haul it away. So it will be showing up in Home Depot and Lowes at dirt cheap prices with one huge problem; Formosan Termites will be the bonus in many of those bags. New Orleans is one of the few areas in the country were the Formosan Termites has gotten a strong hold and most of the trees blown down were already badly infested with those termites. Now we may have the worst case of transporting a problem to all parts of the country that we have ever had. These termites can eat a house in no time at all and we have no good control against them, so tell your friends that own homes to avoid cheap mulch and know were it came from.

Comments:  While still trying to verify these claims with Louisiana authorities, there is reason in the meantime to suspect this warning is overblown, if not downright false.

The Formosan subterranean termite has long been recognized as a serious problem in southern Louisiana, so serious in fact that in October 2005 the state's Department of Agriculture and Forestry imposed a quarantine on all wood debris from parishes affected by Hurricane Katrina. The declaration reads, in part, as follows:

The movement of any wood or cellulose material from the named parishes is prohibited unless either (1) such wood or cellulose material has been fumigated or otherwise treated for Formosan termites and is approved for movement by the Commissioner or his designee(s), or (2) the Commissioner or his designee(s) gives written authorizations for untreated wood or cellulose material to be moved from the named parishes.

The ban on removing wood waste from southern Louisiana is also mentioned in a November 12, 2005 article in USA Today describing hurricane cleanup operations in greater New Orleans:

In Louisiana, crews haul the waste to one of 150 dumps, transfer stations and temporary collection sites. Some is buried whole, some pulverized in giant grinders. Woody vegetation is chipped, then burned, buried or mulched. No wood waste can leave the state because it could contain voracious Formosan termites.

So, while it is certainly possible that some Katrina wood debris has crossed the state line through the negligence of private individuals, Louisiana would be in violation of its own quarantine rules if, as claimed in the email, "the state is trying to get rid of tons and tons of this mulch to any state or company who will come and haul it away."

This page will be updated as more information becomes available.



Update:  March 5, 2006
Termite-infested mulch rumors are false
Don't be surprised if anxious customers begin asking if the mulch you sell is infested with termites. An e-mail rumor peaked last week that mulch made from trees blown over by Hurricane Katrina is infested with Formosan termites and is being sold to the public, primarily through Home Depot. Louisiana State Univ. rebutted the rumor, releasing a statement that the affected area, although infested with Formosan termites, is under quarantine, and no untreated wood products harvested from Katrina would be on the market legally. Web site Snopes.com originally had the rumor listed as "undetermined," which increased consumer fears. Bob LaGasse, exec. dir. of Mulch & Soil Council, contacted Snopes.com last Friday with up-to-the-minute information on the mulch, and the Web site updated the rumor from "undetermined" to "false."

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