Forget killer bees. Here come super termites.
They chew through plaster. They munch through mortar. They devour trees. They eat telephone poles.
The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has identified the tough termite as the Formosan species of the Copototermes genus.
For more than three years, hundreds of them have been plaguing the Ambassador North condominium on the Intracoastal Waterway.
"But I think it's going to be more of a widespread problem than just that condominium," said Dr. Philip Koehler, extension entomologist with the institute in Gainesville.
This is the first time the Formosans have been found in Florida, Koehler said. Originally from Asia, they first cropped up in the United States in Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas in 1965 and 1966.
The Formosans get to tender wood by secreting an acid that dissolves inedible plaster, mortar and preservatives; they have been known to hollow out the inside of trees and creosoted telephone poles until they collapse.
They reproduce rapidly, and it takes a pesticide twice as strong as what is usually used on subterranean termites to kill them.
The Formosans, Koehler said, probably sailed to Hallandale on a pleasure boat that docked next to the Ambassador North. And they made a beeline for the condo's recreation room.
Three years ago, the condominium association spent $3,000 to replace the recreation room's roof after the termites ate the supports. Since then, the termites have snacked on kitchen cabinets in one of the apartments, Koehler said.
The solution, he said, is to spray them with a 2 percent solution of the pesticide Chlordane rather than the 1 percent solution typically used on subterranean termites.
The slightest bit of moisture also must be dried up. Subterranean termites can be killed by spraying the soil because they return there every night. Formosans do not bother, Koehler said. They stay wherever they can find any water.