Belgium faces new threat from invasive termite species

Editorial Team
credit: phys

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Three new termite species found in Belgium; some may spread. Experts warn that these invasive populations are more likely to extend than others.

Three new species of termites have been found in Belgium. Scientists caution that some of these intrusive populations are more likely to spread than others. Termites are small, soft-bodied insects that usually go unnoticed until they cause considerable damage. 

What damage can termites cause?

According to BrusselsTimes, a termite attack on human environments can cause widespread structural deterioration due to the insect’s capability to break down timber. They consume wood from the inside out, which allows to breakdown of lifeless matter in forests, but poses significant threats to buildings, furniture and other human infrastructure.

Where are termites typically found in Europe?

In Europe, termites are typically found in warmer climates such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Southern France. Termite settlements are made up of millions of individual insects that build up complicated networks and nest inside walls, under bottoms and underground.

What species of termites were identified in Belgium?

In 2020, the Barcoding Facility for Organisms and Tissues of Policy Concern (Bopco) was informed of two unusual infestations in two separate houses in Uccle, when both families were unable to identify the airborne insects. Bopco subsequently recognised them as ‘powderpost’ termites. A different species, Reticulitermes banyulensis, was recognised elsewhere in the Brussels-Capital Region in 2021.

“Both infestations likely resulted from importing infested wood (furniture, building materials, souvenirs) from tropical areas,” according to the Institute of Natural Sciences.

How is Belgium managing termite infestations?

While these species are unlikely to succeed in the Belgian climate, a third species recognised in the Walloon province Hainaut in 2021 is much more likely to propagate. Reticulitermes flavipes emanate from the east and are more adjusted to cooler temperatures. In light of these discoveries, the Institute of Natural Sciences highlights the importance of continuing to monitor termite existence in Belgium to mitigate any undesirable effects of their spread.

What measures are taken against Asian hornets?

Moreover, in Feb 2024 it came to light that the invasive Asian hornet species poses a difficulty to various ecosystems across the country, as well as to beekeepers. To fight their spread, Wallonia will step up measures in 2024, announced the Regional Minister of Agriculture Willy Borsus.

The management plan, presented in 2023 with a funding of €267,000, pays to trap the queen hornets in the spring, guard beehives, and neutralise nests across the region. “Last year, despite technical uncertainties in acquiring the necessary tools, about 200 nests were offset within a month,” clarified Borsus.

The project successfully distributed defensive equipment, including poles and suits, via the Union of Beekeeping Federations of Wallonia and Brussels (UFAWB) to 18 beekeeping sectors.

In 2023, the strategy concluded with the distribution of 4,000 kits for trapping queen hornets in the spring by the Walloon Centre for Agronomic Research (CRA-W). The protection of our beekeeping sector is essential for the pollination of many crops and for biodiversity in Wallonia,” stated Willy Borsus. He said, “Neutralising Asian hornets is a necessary measure to preserve the beekeeping sector. We must continue our efforts.”

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