JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s Duval County Extension Service held an organizational meeting Tuesday to address concerns about an invasive species of termites causing damage in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood.
The Woman's Club of Jacksonville building owned by the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was voted to be demolished because of a Formosan subterranean termite infestation. The invasive species didn't show up in Florida until the late 1980s and didn't reach Jacksonville until 2005.
Last year, the termites were discovered eating away at the building, with colonies in four of the Cummer’s oak trees.
"Riverside's Woman's Club has been a great building in the area forever, as well as the Garden Club. And I would really hate to see it being town down if there was any way to preserve it. It would be a great addition to Jacksonville," said real estate broker Michael Thomos, who has called the Avondale neighborhood home for more than 40 years.
Residents in Riverside said they’re worried their homes may be damaged by termites next.
"It's not good for realtors. It's not good for homeowners. But we need to take care of the problem as quickly as possible," Thomos said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, city of Jacksonville officials, JEA, pest control specialists and homeowners who attended formed the Jacksonville Formosan Termite Task Force. They discussed effective pesticide options to get rid of the infestations and how to educate others in preventing them.
Jennifer Leggett, owner of Lindsey Pest Services, said she has seen Formosan termites for 12 years, mostly in Riverside. She said word of mouth is the best way to get help from people in the community.
“The homeowners that are here and want to be a part of this task force that wants to get the word out., I think that’s going to be No. 1 -- to make everyone aware because not everyone follows this on their Twitter feed. Not everyone watches the news or reads the newspaper,” Leggett said. "There's really good information out there and there's false information out there. So it's good to have this addressed so people are aware of what's actually going on."
The task force members said they don’t want people to panic, but want them to be educated about the problem.
"Termites cause significant damage to our structures, homes, businesses, schools, churches. That's why we need the awareness," Leggett said.
The task force will be looking at a number of ways to get the problem under control, including reviewing how the city of New Orleans is handling its Formosan termite problem.
Experts said people should make sure there's no wood touching the ground around their homes. Homeowners call also have bait traps installed to cut back on termite populations.
Anyone who has concerns about termites in their home should contact a pest control specialist or visit the task force’s website.
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