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Fact or fiction: termites in mulch

Hurricane Katrina devastated many parts of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Now, could a tiny side-effect cause trouble in Oklahoma?

There's an e-mail going around the Internet that says a ferocious type of termite might be hitching a ride in mulch from the south.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg talks to people about the termite turmoil.

He's the little bug with the big appetite. The Formosan termite is considered Louisiana's most destructive insect and with all the downed trees in Katrina's wake, Phil Pratt at the OSU Extension office says he's hearing a rumor that termite mulch might make its way to Oklahoma. "Startin' to get calls, and they will continue, we get a lot of homeowners that are concerned every year. What's going on? What have you heard? What information have you got?"

Steve Smith at Southwood Nursery has heard the same thing, but isn't worried. "I don't think we're gonna have a problem. I think it's been overblown. It's my understanding this particular termite is not that winter-hardy up here at all." And he doubts the soft-bodied bug could make it through the chipping process. "I don't think the termite could live through that."

Pratt says the mulch shouldn't make it up here in the first place. "Because the Louisiana Dept. of Agriculture has quarantined the wood products, trees and pallets and ties and telephone poles, electrical poles from those parishes."

The experts say if you're really that worried, just look at the mulch and you should be able to see the termites. They say it's a good idea to inspect the mulch for any kind of pest, Formosan or otherwise. Phil Pratt: "Even it would be a good idea if native termites are in there, because mulch around the home is a source, a place for termites to live."

In the end though, this e-mail rumor's bark is worse than its bite. The OSU Extension Office at the the Tulsa County Fairgrounds is offering a class that will teach you everything you need to know about termites. It's on Wednesday, April 19th at 3 and 5:30 PM. Cost is $10 per person.
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