story to find out more.
They can run, but they can't
inside an oak tree to see a Windows Media Player video clip of termites
fleeing from foam.
Formosan subterranean termites feed on trees and wood structures. To combat
them, ARS scientists developed a foaming fungal biocontrol treatment.
Bottom: ARS microbiologist Mark Jackson (left) uses a fiber optic video
camera to monitor termite activity inside a tree as New Orleans Mosquito and
Termite Control Board entomologist Ed Freytag injects the tree with foam.
Click the images for more information about them.
Fungal Foam Targets Termites Inside Trees
Suszkiw September 5, 2007
A fungus-filled foam is being tested as a biological alternative to
using chemicals to kill termites hiding inside tree trunks and other
Developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Peoria, Ill., and New
Orleans, La., the foam contains spores of the fungus Paecilomyces
fumosoroseus, which kills termites by feeding and growing inside their
Since the fungus poses no such danger to people and nonhost insects,
it's an appealing alternative to chemically treating termite-infested trees
with insecticides, notes
Dunlap. He's a chemist with ARS'
Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria.
Dunlap codeveloped the foam with microbiologists
Jacksonalso at the Peoria centerand
Wright, with ARS'
Regional Research Center in New Orleans.
A top target of theirs is the Formosan subterranean termite,
Coptotermes formosanus. A nonindigenous species that's become
established in the southern and southwestern United States, the Formosan
termite is unrivaled in the size of its colonies, tunneling and appetite for
cellulose in wood materials and living trees.
In New Orleans alone, the pest costs an estimated $300 million
annually in damages and losses. But if the team's tests in New Orleans' City
Park are any indication, the fungal foam could make the heartwood of live oaks
and other host trees far less hospitable to Formosan termites.
Indeed, researchers have observed little to no termite activity in
trees originally treated with the fungal foam in 2005. However, because some
control trees were lost to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, additional tests
were begun in the spring of 2007 to further substantiate the foam's
When injected into trees, the foam expands into any cavities or
tunnels the pests have made in the heartwood. Upon collapsing, it disperses
spores onto the termites, or to areas where the termites travel.
You can learn more details by reading a longer
in this month's issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.