Recently, Wavy TV 10 aired a report about a homeowner in Norfolk importing termites from bagged mulch purchased at Home Depot. TPCA member companies have complained to TPCA about inaccuracies in the report, and the following letter was sent to Wavy TV 10.
Wavy TV 10
Mr. Eric Harryman
Over the last several days we have received numerous calls from our member companies complaining about the report you aired on Monday evening about a homeowner in Norfolk importing termites from bagged mulch purchased at Home Depot. First and foremost, it is highly unlikely that termites are in bagged mulch as pointed out in the interview with the mulch supplier. The supplier also indicated that the systems in place to produce mulch are standardized throughout the industry thus undermining the theory that termites maybe transferred among bags from different suppliers.
Secondly, in your report you dug into a bag of mulch that had been sitting in the garage of the affected homeowner for over six months and indicated you found live termites. Furthermore you showed a video to an alleged expert who identified it as a worker termite. Our entire board of directors viewed the video footage several times and came to the unanimous consensus that the insect in the video was NOT a termite. To prove this let us look at the facts with regards to termite reproduction, development and survivability.
The species of termites in this area (Eastern Subterranean Termite) found at the house requires six to seven years once being introduced to populate and establish a mature colony. In the early stages the queen, after laying eggs, spends much of her time after the immature termites are born tending to the colony and not foraging out into the mulch to search for food. It would take a considerable length of time before worker termites were produced and reared to maturity and sent to forage for food in noticeable numbers. Consequently worker termites found in fresh mulch are more likely from an existing colony already present around the home.
Termites also have specific jobs within the colony. The queen is responsible for egg production. Secondary reproductives assist with egg production as the colony grows and matures. The worker termites carry out the work of the colony from tending to the young to foraging for food. The workers whether male or female are sterile and cannot reproduce. Soldiers complete the caste system and protect the colony from other invading insects. As you can see the termite colony is a vast and complex one and importing all the necessary members in ten to twelve bags that are spread around a home is virtually impossible.
In terms of the continued progressive development consider that immature termites are unique in their nutritional needs because like all juvenile insects they must periodically shed their skin (exoskeleton) in order to grow (molting). When they do this they also shed the lining of their hindgut where wood digesting microorganisms live. After molting the termites no longer have their microorganisms and are unable to digest food. In order to replenish their microorganism supply, the young termites feed on fluids (which contain the microorganisms) excreted from the hindgut of older termites. Without the presence of the older termites the immature ones would perish. In order to survive in a sealed bag of mulch there would have to be all stages of termites so they may continue their lifecycle. Given the fact that the most important termites are always close to the nest it is unreasonable to assume that a small section of workers would survive after being separated from the nest.
Finally, there are the moisture requirements of termites. Termites readily dry out and as their name suggests they must return to the soil to obtain the moisture needed for survival. Without a moisture source it is impossible for the termites to survive in a bag of mulch in someone’s garage sitting on a concrete slab. It simply is unfeasible!
Given all of these facts, it is clear that the chances of termites being introduced and surviving inside a bag of mulch is improbable at best if not impossible altogether. They simply cannot survive the manufacturing process and considering developmental needs cannot survive in bags of mulch. In the event that termites miraculously survived and were in the bag of mulch the homeowner retained, they would have to start a new colony and begin the reproduction cycle all over again and you would have had hundreds of immature termites in the bag not one sole worker.
Other inaccuracies in your report include your statement that you have to look extra hard to see termites in the winter as they are smaller than at other times. This is untrue and completely unfounded. The disparity among termite sizes are usually attributed to their species and the developmental cycle the individual termite is in. Put simply, they do not change size with the seasons.
It is commendable that WAVY TV wishes to assist individuals who have been unfairly treated in various circumstances. In this circumstance, however, the power of the media was used unfairly against business. The individual who contacted you did not deserve to have restitution for his termite treatment despite what he may have thought. Due to the numerous factual inaccuracies included in your report, we believe the responsible course of action is to inform the public of the truth. Your viewers deserve to have their minds put to rest prior to the spring gardening season, and it only seems fair to the businesses who may suffer from your report to clarify the situation.
In the future, should you have questions regarding insects or infestations, we would recommend you contact the Tidewater Pest Control Association for expert assistance.
Tidewater Pest Control Association