The termite pests increase, as confirmed by the National Association of Pest Control Companies (Anecpla). Xylophages, also called wood insects, have become the second most frequent pest problem behind the cockroach. “The biggest incidence we are noticing of this type of insects is termite,” they say. Unlike the massive appearance of other insects in buildings, termites and woodworm pose no public health problems, but cause serious structural damage in buildings.
The member of Anecpla Pedro Guasp details that in the pest control company where he works the consultations to end the presence of termites and woodworms have multiplied by ten compared to 30 years ago. In this sense, according to a recent study by Rentokil Initial, wood insects accounted for 14% of the incidents registered in the company last year, representing an increase of 5% per year. However, the throne of the most common infestations continues to be occupied by the cockroach. And in Catalonia, termites and woodworms are tied in the ranking with the bed bug.
“Any home is susceptible to a termite attack,” says Guasp, and continues: “What happens is that there are some conditions that may favor the presence of these insects, such as humidity, lack of maintenance or simply the random”. However, it also recognizes that the greater or lesser presence of xylophages depends on each area, so that an old town in a city like Madrid is more likely to suffer a plague by termites than a more modern area where large skyscrapers abound and concrete. “The termite lives underground and only goes to the wood to eat,” he explains. A substantial difference with woodworm, which is rooted in the wood that gnaws.
The construction boom, one of the causes
One of the reasons considered in relation to the rise of xylophagous pests is climate change. “The termites in the decomposition of cellulose generate methane, so they contribute their grain of sand in climate change, which in turn favors these insects have more activity,” says David Rubio, expert in wood insects and director commercial of Ibertrac. While the technical director of Rentokil Initial, Koldo Alberto Plazaola, argues that the increase of this and other pests is also attributed to the installation of heating in homes.
Guasp considers that other causes weigh more: “It is not so much because of climate change but because in the last 30 years a lot has been built in places where the termite was sedentary, that is, there have been urbanizations and residences in rural areas”, that was the natural habitat of termites. In this sense David Rubio says that termites “can adapt very well” to our buildings, which is still a slab on the ground where moisture condenses and, in addition, there is a certain temperature, which favors its survival.
“They only move and reach the wood of our houses in order to feed themselves and nothing else,” says Plazaola. “Although it is now built with little wood, there are always door frames, skirting boards and pallets that can be eaten,” he adds, and he denies that most wood is treated before its placement to prevent the proliferation of these insects. Another factor that influences, according to the member of Anecpla, is that the woods that are currently marketed “have a higher proportion of cellulose than old wood”, the substance from which the termite is fed. These materials are not usually attacked by woodworm, which, although it depends on each species, usually prefers softer wood.
The arrival of foreign species
Anecpla sources indicate that in recent years new species of termites of tropical origin have been detected. “They have entered Spain surely with wood that has been imported without control,” they warn. In this sense, they explain that termites have even been found inside boats, which is very unusual. The incidence of tropical termites is lower than that of some autochthonous species, but lately it has increased its presence in buildings.
The experts in pest control agree that public awareness of this type of infestation helps to detect them. “There is more information,” says Pedro Guasp. “What people once thought were winged ants turns out to look on the internet and realize they are termites,” adds Koldo Alberto Plazaola. And this avoids greater consequences in the timber of buildings, since experts can act before at the time of eliminating this type of infestations.
Termites are “discrete,” says David Rubio, who recalls that although they cause serious damage to buildings due to their voracity, in other parts of the world they are a rich delicacy. “Other cultures, even, eat them,” he concludes.