There are a few obscure termite species that inhabit Florida and the Gulf Coast. The most well known of these southeastern dwelling termites is referred to as the Formosan subterranean termite. There are also other termites in this region that have arrived more recently than the Formosan termite. However, there is one type of drywood termite, which is found in the southeast and Hawaii, that has been infesting wood-crafted structures on American soil for at least a full century. These termites are referred to as West Indian drywood termites, or Cryptotermes brevis. These types of termites have been described in literature dating back to 1853, but researchers are not sure as to which part of the world these termites originated.
The West Indian termites were found and collected from the Island of Jamaica during the mid-nineteenth century. Since then, these termites have been spotted on every West Indian Island. Despite how common this termite is on the Islands located throughout the West Indies, researchers seem certain that the West Indian termite did not originate from this area. Experts will likely never know exactly where in the world this termite originated, but researchers believe that the West Indian termite originated from an obscure area in the Neotropics. The West Indian termite’s natural habitat has been hard to determine historically since the West Indian termite only feeds on structural wood. These termites were not even noticed until they began to feed on wood-made structures. The alates of this species will not even approach wood that is pressure treated with chromated copper arsenate, which is a commonly used lumber. All drywood termites feast on solid softwoods and hardwoods.
West Indian termites were found to be inhabiting the United States nearly a century ago in 1919. It is likely, however, that the West Indian termite species had found its way to America long before this date. This termite was well known for infesting wooden trading ships during the early American colonial era. This West Indian termite was considered a pest during the seventeenth century when colonies of these termites were found to be infesting wood-crafted goods that were being transported on early trading ships. Today, these termites are commonly found to be infesting furniture, and other in home wooden objects, on the Hawaiian Islands and the southeastern US, especially the state of Florida.
Do you believe that the West Indian drywood termite could have possibly arrived in America before the seventeenth century? Could early wood-crafted exploring ships have carried this termite to future America during the sixteenth century?