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Operation Full Stop Means "Lights Out" for
Termites By Erin
Kendrick-Peabody July 14, 2003
New Orleans residents thought they might be overrun by the Formosan
subterranean termite. This invader, only about a half inch long, has a hearty
appetite for wood and was chewing away at the architectural gems of the
world-famous French Quarter in the Louisiana city.
But now, Operation Full
Stop, the national campaign meant to stop termites in their tracks, appears
to be curbing the Formosan scourge. It relies on the cooperation of several
city, state, federal and private agencies. Now,
Agricultural Research Service
laboratories and scientists, who helped launch the program five years ago,
report that termite numbers are down, finally, in the city's historic district.
Researchers haven't always had a handle on the damaging pests. A surge
in Formosan populations in the late 1980s had termite specialists scratching
their heads. The result of this brainstorm? The geographic scope of termite
management needed to be bigger-- much bigger.
Instead of just single homes and businesses, scientists in ARS'
Termite Research Unit in New Orleans started treating entire city blocks
for termites in the French Quarter. The areawide approach worked. In 1998,
about 70 percent as many alates--tiny, winged termites--were captured inside of
treated zones as outside of them. By 2002, that number was down to 42 percent.
Instruments that can pinpoint exactly where the termites are hiding
are a critical part of the offensive strategy. Two ARS entomologists--one an
expert on termites, the other on insect sounds--have created a device that can
detect termites munching behind walls.
Researchers at ARS'
Regional Research Center in New Orleans are also developing innovative ways
to kill the pests. One promising method attacks termites via their tastebuds.
An ARS-developed bait matrix combines a tasty insect snack with a slow-acting
read more about this many-pronged pest-control effort, see the July issue
of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.