Those now used employ wood or paper-based
materials to encourage foraging termites to contact slow-acting chemical toxins
hidden inside, and spread them to nestmates. But scientists want to find out if
replacing the toxins with a microbial ingredient will offer a natural
alternative. Another possibility is to dust fungal spores onto termite nest
The microbes behind such possibilities include known insect pathogens from
the U.S. and potential pathogens obtained in China and Australia by ARS
entomologist Janine Powell, based in Mississippi, another termite-plagued
state. From her specimens, the New Orleans team is seeking microbes that will
specifically attack the Formosan termite, spread throughout its colonies, and
withstand the insects' physical and chemical defenses.
One candidate pathogen is an Australian strain of Metarhizium fungus.
In lab trials, up to 100 percent of Formosan termites died two days after
exposure to millions of the fungus' spores. Early next summer, scientists will
test it in a new ARS termite bait "matrix" along with commercial
products. The baits are central to an area-wide termite control project planned
for Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Baits laced with imported microbes may require
ARS is the USDA's chief scientific wing.
Scientific contact: Janine Powell, Maureen Wright, ARS
Subterranean Termite Research Unit, New Orleans, La. Wright: phone (504)
286-4294, fax (504) 286-4419, email@example.com. Powell
(Stoneville, Miss.): phone (662) 686-5282, fax (662) 686-5281,