Friday, March 17, 2006

Don't believe everything you read on the internets

My Preemptive Karma partner Kevin sent me an email a few weeks back about the dangers of buying mulch laced with termites. Mulch was supposedly being made by debris left over from Hurricane Katrina damage. Kevin knows I'm a hobby gardener and wanted to make sure I wasn't infesting my precious raised beds with voracious critters.

According to the email, the termites in the mulch were some sort of nasty uber termite from Louisiana that the locals have had a helluva time getting rid of.

The peeps over at the OSU Extension Service got wind of this email and checked it out. Turns out we were on the business end of a hoax:

Here's what's really happening: No wood debris from hurricane-damaged areas has been moved outside the Gulf Coast and is, in fact, under quarantine, according to Ashley Rodrigue, press secretary for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

As clearing takes place, the debris goes to landfills, all of which are in quarantined parishes in Louisiana except one in Mississippi, which is an area that is quarantined for Formosan termites, the subject of the false e-mail.

Beyond that, The Mulch & Soil Council points out that in order for a mulch to be certified, it cannot contain treated wood from construction and demolition.

Makes sense. I was honestly concerned about this termite thing and had planned to ask at the place where I purchase mulch about it.
But here's where I felt like a complete idiot:

Furthermore, even if termites were in the debris, it's extremely unlikely that they could live through the mulch grinding process or high temperatures of mulch packages, says Dennis Ring, Louisiana State University termite expert. He added that the Formosan termite has been in the country for about 50 years and that efforts continue to keep it from spreading.

Doh! I should have known that. I'm really glad I didn't ask the mulch vendor about this--I could just see him rolling his eyes at me.