Concern surrounding aggressive termites in Jacksonville

Heather Crawford anchors. 4/27/2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—An aggressive species of termite rips through a historic Riverside property leaving its owners, they say, with no choice but to move on. 

After nearly 90 years, the Woman's Club of Jacksonville building will be demolished. Experts say the Formosan termite's colonies are ten times as large as other native species.

John Cooksey of McCalls pest control says the Formosan termite has been in Florida since the 1970s and they're likely not going anywhere. 

He's been treating buildings in Riverside and throughout the city for this particular species for more than ten years. But it's now in the spotlight after chewing through the costly renovation project of a historic building.

With his cane in hand, Delavan Baldwin stands outside of the Woman's Club of Jacksonville building Wednesday afternoon, staring at its renovated beauty. He remains fond of the place constructed the same year he was born, 89 years ago in 1927.

"This is where I learned to dance," said Baldwin. "Ballroom dancing and jitterbugging."

He doesn't do much dancing nowadays, but felt the need to visit the site set to be torn down. Formosan termites were discovered swarming inside back in June of 2015.

"They've actually run all the way up into the rafters of this building, which is a three-story building and eaten much of that away," said Hope McMath, Cummer Director.

McMath and her team made the difficult decision to move forward with demolition of the structure after pouring in $7 million in renovations.

"Not only have they already done a lot of damage, but this wood also cannot be treated with chemicals," said McMath as she tapped a portion of the building's interior wooden frame.

Entomologist John Cooksey believes that by the time the Cummer discovered their pesky problem back in June, it was likely already too late.

"The Riverside Avenue area: I've seen several infestations of this termite, the Formosan termite," said Cooksey. "Most of the cases we've caught early and they haven't done that much damage. But if you let something like that go, that's what's going to happen."

A costly problem beyond repair.

"How do I feel about that?" asked Baldwin. "Time marches on everything changes."

The typical Formosan colony will have numbers in the millions, as opposed to numbers in the hundreds of thousands, like the typical native termite. Cooksey says people should be vigilant and look out for anything that is out of the ordinary in their home.

If you see mud tubes or termite droppings, that looks like crumbling wood or crumbling mud call an expert.


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