An historic 150-year-old cotton warehouse on New Orleans' riverfront near the Garden District is the site of a full-scale field test of a new patented bait system that holds the promise of controlling dreaded Formosan subterranean termites.
Dr. Gregg Henderson and Dr. Jian Chen of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center developed the bait system that lures termites into a feeding chamber and then entices them into a second chamber that contains toxin-laced material, which the invaders carry back to their nest to kill the entire colony. Henderson and Chen put out their first full-scale tests with prototype bait stations Oct. 15.
Developed with funds from the LSU Ag Center, the apparatus is made from a plastic cylinder about 8 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. It's divided into two chambers by a wall with a small hole in the center.
The first chamber contains a small amount of cardboard as an introductory food source for the insects and a paper plug that initially keeps termites out of the other section, Henderson explains.
Because they don't know how easily a termite colony would find them on its own, the researchers "pre-conditioned" the bait stations by placing termites in the non-toxic sections before they set them out.
Henderson's crew placed about 30 of the devices around the warehouse near the mud-walled shelter tubes that the targeted termites build and use for travel between their colony and food sources.
"Putting the apparatus near a shelter tube is easier than trying to find the actual colony site, which may be deep beneath the ground or, in the case of Formosan termites, hidden behind building walls," the entomologist says.
After these introduced termites feed on the cardboard, they should venture into nearby shelter tubes and lay down trails that termites in the targeted colony will follow back to the bait.