The method involves exposing the termites to their natural enemies, certain species of bacteria or fungi, which infect and kill the pests, said Maureen S. Wright, Ph.D., a research microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agricultures Agricultural Research Service, in New Orleans.
The development appears promising in laboratory tests and could provide an alternative or adjunct to pesticides, which might inadvertently harm the plants they are intended to protect, she said. In addition, it may benefit people who prefer not to use chemical pesticides in their home.
Microorganisms represent an additional tool in the integrated pest management toolbox, said Wright.
According to the USDA, Formosan termite infestations have been found in 11 states: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Already, the Formosans have damaged large parts of the historic French Quarter in New Orleans, where they continue to wreak havoc on homes and many of the trees that line the citys streets.
Wright cautions that the new technology is not yet ready for marketing and continues to undergo refinement and further lab testing. Field-testing could begin as early as next spring, she said.
The Formosan termite is thought to have arrived in the continental U.S. nearly a half century ago. It is believed that the insects were first carried here as unwanted stowaways aboard wooden shipping crates carrying supplies home from the Pacific following World War II. Environmental factors here, inc
Contact: Charmayne Marsh
American Chemical Society