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Wednesday, April 15, 1998 Published at 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK


Termites are here .. and they're hungry!
image: [ Termites munched their way through a porch in Devon ]
Termites munched their way through a porch in Devon

Termites - tiny pests capable of burrowing their way through concrete - have been found in Britain for the first time.

A colony of the ant-like insects in south-west England is reported to have defied efforts by a government agency to eradicate them.

[ image:  ]
The termites were first discovered by a housewife in North Devon three years ago, according to a report in the Guardian.

The woman contacted her local authority when termites, normally found in warmer climates, munched their way through her timber porch.

Dr Tony Bravery: "They were introduced in very small numbers"
Dr Tony Bravery, of the Centre of Timber Technology Construction at the Building Research Station near Watford, was called in to destroy the colony. He traced the infestation to termites brought with a plant in a packing case from eastern Europe.

Colonies are expanding

A timber treatment expert was brought in and it was thought the colony had been eradicated with insecticides. But the termites, capable of destroying entire buildings, have reappeared and Dr Bravery is back on the trail.

"We are trying to find out how they have survived and where. It does not look like a big colony but we keep finding them. It is potentially very worrying," he said.

In the United States, termites cause more damage than fire and flood together. In Australia they cut off electricity in the outback by chewing power lines.

[ image:  ]
Colonies are expanding in Paris and have been found on the French coast. Once found they are very difficult to exterminate.

The variety discovered in Devon is called reticulitermes and is very destructive. Colonies could have 5 or 6 million workers, but typically contain hundreds of thousands.

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