Invasive Caribbean Termites or Snakehead "Frakenfish": Which is Grosser? | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Invasive Caribbean Termites or Snakehead "Frakenfish": Which is Grosser?

It seems every week a new invasive species tearing through Florida makes headlines. Maybe it's because we're home to some of the busiest ports in the world, maybe it's due to our ostentatious exotic pet owners constantly trying to one-up one another, or maybe it's just that the climate here is so damned nice that every species wants a piece. 

In the past month, two more ludicrous animals have grabbed some attention for their presence in the Sunshine State. The first is a prehistoric-looking, air-breathing fish capable of "overland migration." The second is a Caribbean termite with a proclivity for tunneling up the sides of homes. 

Here, a quick comparison of each invaders' gross-out factor. 

Snakeheads (Chana marulius)

What is it? A fish native to parts of Asia and Africa. 

What's most alarming about it? Saying a fish is capable of "overland migration" is a gussied-up way of explaining that certain species are capable of wiggling their way across land. Yes, fish shouldn't be able to live on land, but in ideal conditions, some snakeheads can survive out of water for three days.

How did they get here? According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are two likely explanations. The first -- a typical excuse for many invasive species -- is that aquarium owners let a few loose in local waters, probably after realizing these things make terrible pets. The much more interesting second explanation: Someone in the restaurant or food industry released them intentionally to build up a local food source. Apparently, the white, flaky meat of these resilient beasts is delicious

Caribbean Tree Termite (Nasutitermes corniger)

What is it? An exotic tree termite native to the Caribbean. 

What's most alarming about it? First, they're concentrated in Dania Beach -- way too close for comfort. And unlike most species of termites, these critters walk about in the open -- say, your kitchen floor -- looking for whatever hardwood is nearby to make a meal of. Oh yeah, they eat hardwood, like broom handles, and are perfectly equipped to destroy a home. Still, their worst attribute is that they build nests of shit the size of beach balls, each of which is home to more than a million critters. 

How did they get here? According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the termites first arrived in 2001. It's likely these critters arrived through one of our various ports on a shipment of God knows what. By 2003, authorities announced that they had eradicated the species from the area. Obviously, that announcement was a bit premature. It's likely that there are more than 100 million of these things residing in Broward these days. Eradication efforts are under way. 

The winner: Snakeheads are gross, but they don't live in beach-ball-sized nests of their own excrement. Termites win. Termites win!

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Chris Sweeney

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