Home owners may sleep better because student overcame her fear of insects

ey eat, how they distribute food to the colony, and how an insecticide could be incorporated. "To determine their preferences, we looked at all types of sugars, the impact of salts, and various fatty acids, to characterize the things that stimulate them to feed," says Fell.

"Then, to determine how big a particle an ant can eat, we fed them different sizes of florescent beads so we could see how small it had to be to pass through their digestive system. We found they can filter particles down to a micron, which is very small," explains Fell.

Carpenter ants do not eat the wood they carve up. "We learned that food has to be in liquid form or a form they can extract as liquid, such as a gel."

Another important facet in understanding the process is how food is distributed among nest members. Low level radioactivity was used to trace food distribution in the nest.

The researchers began to incorporate an insecticide. "Our sponsor had one already approved for indoor use that was the correct particle size. We began to incorporate it at very low levels-- parts per million--so the ants would have time to carry it back to the nest."

The researchers created a formula that doesn't kill the ants for 10 to 12 hours. Fell emphasizes, "We didn't work on the insecticide, but on attraction, dosage, and delivery."

By 1996, a bait was ready to test. The results made some local homeowners very happy. Household tests were done using people who had had problems with carpenter ants for years.

Blacksburg homeowner Peter Trower sings Fell's praises, although he complains that he had been bugging Fell for years to solve his problem. Trower described his home as "infested." "I'd be sitting here, eating, and an ant would fall out of the ceiling. I almost swallowed one. They're big. You know when one is in your mouth.

"I drilled holes and poured stuff in them. It didn't work," Trower says. "Finally, Rick came with these ampoules with guc

Contact: Rick Fell
Virginia Tech

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