MAF moves to destroy termites from Waikanae property

27 September 2011

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is taking action to destroy a small population of an unwanted termite from a Queens Road home in Waikanae.

The West Indian drywood termite is new to New Zealand and is considered one of the most damaging drywood termites internationally because it tunnels into and destroys dry timber.

If left unchecked, it has the potential to significantly damage timber framed homes and impact on the country’s sawn timber export industry.

MAF Biosecurity Response Manager Glen Neal says investigations indicate that the termites are unlikely to have moved beyond the home where they were first detected.

“These insects have limited ability to spread far independently without being transported inside wooden materials that are moved. All items from the affected house that contained termite colonies have been treated,” Mr Neal says.

However, due to the damage that the termite could cause to any timber-framed home, MAF will fumigate the entire house as a precautionary measure to ensure any possible remaining termites are destroyed.

Mr Neal says MAF is very confident the termites can be completely eradicated.

MAF has received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to import and use sulphuryl fluoride (SF) in the fumigation. This gas is used widely and routinely in Australia and the United States to treat this pest in homes.

“We have been in close discussion with the EPA, the Kapiti Coast District Council and the homeowner to ensure this activity can take place in a well-controlled and appropriate manner, with as little disruption to the community as possible.

“Tight control measures are in place to ensure the safety of the fumigators and the homeowners, and to minimise the impact on the community, neighbours and the environment while the eradication takes place.

“The home will be covered with tarpaulins to keep the gas contained inside it. Once the treatment is completed, the fumigators will monitor the atmosphere in the house until the fumigant present in the air is reduced to a minimal safe level before removing the tarpaulins.

“The homeowners will be relocated for the weekend and neighbours have been informed.”

Mr Neal says that due to the hidden nature of this termite, and the fact that it can damage wooden structures over long periods of time, MAF needs to ensure the insect population is fully removed.

For this reason, MAF will need to inspect neighbouring properties to be sure they are also clear, and will conduct a 10-year surveillance programme to check for any possible termite activity.

“MAF would like to thank the homeowners who have worked closely with us throughout this operation, and also thank the community for their patience during the process,” says Mr Neal.

For more information visit the MAF website: West Indian drywood termite or phone MAF on 0800 80 99 66

Issued by:
Lesley Patston, Senior Communications Adviser
Telephone: 04 894 0163 or 029 894 0163
Email: Lesley.patston@maf.govt.nz
MAF Media phone: 029 894 0328

Background:

Details:

  • The fumigation is scheduled for the weekend of October 8-9. However, as the activity is weather dependent, it could happen on any weekend from that date onward.
  • Up-to-date information on the actual date for the fumigation will be available on the MAF website, or by phoning MAF on 0800 80 99 66.
  • Full information on the West Indian drywood termite is on the MAF biosecurity website: West Indian drywood termite.

The termite:

  • The West Indian drywood termite Cryptotermes brevis is known internationally as one of the most damaging termites. It has the potential to significantly damage wooden materials, including house framing and stored timber. If left unchallenged, it poses a threat to neighbouring homes in Waikanae.
  • As a drywood termite, Cryptotermes brevis affects dry timber only, so does not affect living plants, logs or fallen trees.
  • The termite is thought to have arrived in New Zealand some years ago, living undetected inside wooden items that were purchased overseas.

The fumigant:

  • The fumigant has been approved for use in New Zealand by the Environmental Protection Agency which considered any risks associated with the treatment and recommended use conditions.
  • Sulphuryl fluoride is widely used overseas because it is highly effective against insects, including termites, while at the same time dissipates quickly from treated buildings once gradually opened to airflow.
  • Significant exposure to high concentrations of sulphuryl fluoride can be toxic to humans and animals but there are tight controls around its use during this operation to protect the homeowners, neighbours and the wider community.

The eradication:

  • The work is being managed by qualified Australian fumigators who have experience using SF for this purpose.
  • The home will be covered with tarpaulins to keep the gas contained within the home.
  • Testing will occur throughout the fumigation to ensure no gas is escaping the tent and any leaks detected will be sealed.
  • The gas will permeate wooden structures in the home, thereby killing the pest.
  • Once the treatment is completed, the fumigators will monitor the atmosphere in the house until the fumigant present in the air is reduced to a minimal safe level of three parts per million parts of air, before removing the tarpaulins.
  • As soon as the gas is released into the atmosphere it will be immediately diluted even further.
  • MAF is confident the termite population will be fully destroyed by a single treatment. It will, however, undertake checks of the house, and neighbouring houses for a 10-year period to formally confirm this.
  • The treatment is taking place before the termites’ next flight season in summer to prevent any further spread of the pest.
  • Note: a flying stage in the termites’ life cycle sees a winged form of the insect leave the colony to find mates and establish new colonies. These flying termites have a limited range (maximum of 100 metres) and only travel over the summer months. In this Waikanae situation, the homeowners have reported that this past summer (2010/2011) was the first time they had seen the flying termites.

 

Last Updated: 28 September 2011

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