Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

2009 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Develop and test strategies to reduce the Formosan Subterranean Termite (FST) population in designated area(s) through area-wide suppression. 2. Develop and evaluate new chemicals for control of FST in structures and trees. 3. Develop non-destructive acoustic technologies and methods for detecting FST.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
The Formosan subterranean termite (FST), Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki was introduced to the continental U.S. after World War II in infested materials shipped from the Pacific Far East. It has spread to 11 States since its introduction. It is estimated that the annual cost in the U.S. for treatments and repair is one billion dollars excluding the value of trees lost to FST infestations. It is estimated that the population size of FST in the New Orleans area alone has expanded 35-fold in the previous decade. These large populations are not manageable with existing technologies or treatment strategies. We propose that these large populations are most effectively managed using an area-wide strategy. Successful implementation of the area-wide approach requires the use of non-repellent termiticides or baiting systems in order to impact entire colonies. We will develop new area-wide termite management strategies using bait systems and through increased understanding of the nature of termite foraging. Increased emphasis on new area-wide bait deployment and targeting infestations hidden in trees will be explored. Furthermore, new detection technologies are essential in order to find the hidden colonies that somehow escape treatment in structures or infest trees and buried debris. We will investigate the insecticidal properties of the new non-repellent termiticides and improve the current bait technology. Instrumentation for detecting sound emitted by FST as it forages throughout its colony system will be developed and used to detect hidden colonies to ensure effective placement of pesticides for termite treatment. Effective techniques developed in this research will be integrated into an ongoing area-wide demonstration project in New Orleans' French Quarter.

3.Progress Report
Research continues to develop and improve electronic termite detection devices for discovery of hidden Formosan subterranean termite (FST) infestations in structures and trees. Several new sensor types were implemented and a laser based technology was attempted. A patent has been filed for a permanently installed termite monitor to detect termite infestations in structures at an early stage of infestation. In-ground monitoring stations were devised to allow acoustic detection of termite activity in bait stations and have been installed. A wide range of chemicals extracted from natural products and their analogs have been tested as potential leads for the discovery of new environmentally safe termiticides. A new class of chemicals based on the chromene (the structure of a plant-derived chemicals) has been discovered as a termiticide and a patent has been filed. Research continues on various possible attractants for improved FST discovery of in-ground bait stations. Chemical extracts from fungal cultures have been fractionated and tested as feeding stimulants and the chemical composition of one active fraction has been determined. We continue to monitor the extent and rate of spread of the FST in rural areas of Mississippi in order to determine the mechanism of its spread and to determine the relative infestation threat to the rural community. Ecological interactions between invasive FST and native termite species are being determined. We continue to monitor the long term effects of the flooding by Hurricane Katrina on populations of the FST in New Orleans’ City Park. Grids to determine termite population density have been established in several locations and will be used to test the effectiveness of hermetically sealed termite baits. New solar rechargeable light traps have been developed for the capture of living reproductive forms in New Orleans’ French Quarter of the termite that can be used to determine their colony origin using molecular genetic techniques. This should help target colonies that have escaped previous treatment using an area-wide treatment program and should improve treatment strategies. Slightly modified light traps were deployed in areas of Louisiana and were used to document FST presence in areas not previously known to be infested.

1. Natural products as termiticides: We have determined a new plant derived natural product, a chromene, shows termiticidal properties. Analogs of this natural product are even more active against the Formosan subterranean termite and show activity against other insect species as well. A patent for these compounds has been filed. Chemical modification of the parent compound has improved termiticidal activity. Chemicals resulting from this research might be useful to control termites or provide clues for new chemistries that could be developed as termiticides. We continue to search for active chemicals isolated from a wide variety of plant materials.

2. Termite survival and dispersal: We have also confirmed the continued presence of the Formosan subterranean termite in areas of New Orleans’ City Park that were under floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina for approximately a month. Roughly eighty percent of the in-ground monitors that showed termite activity in the months immediately preceding Katrina showed the presence of termites two months after the floodwaters receded. These findings indicate the need for continued vigilance and termite control practices even in areas heavily inundated by Katrina’s floodwaters.

3. Feeding stimulant: A fungal extract applied to filter paper has showed feeding stimulating activity compared with untreated controls. Chemical fractionation has revealed a single active fraction that also stimulates feeding and may be useful in a baiting system. Further fractionation and characterization of the active molecules are in progress. Discovery of feeding stimulants could increase the amount of bait consumed by termites and improve the effectiveness of baits as termite control treatments. A Cooperative Research and Development Agreement for the isolation and identification of the fungal metabolite as a termite feeding stimulant was initiated.

4. Spread of Formosan subterranean termites: Evaluation of the extent of termite infestation in rural areas and dispersal of termites along railroads has been initiated through the installation of light traps and in-ground monitors. Captures of the winged (reproductive form, alates) of the Formosan subterranean termite indicate that only short distance spread from known areas of infestation occurs naturally and that only sporadic isolated locations of infestation have been discovered in rural areas distant from commercial activity. In 2008, FST alates were collected at 69/69 traps in Poplarville and 24 of the other 64 traps in southern Mississippi. These findings are expected to help with the development of predictive models for termite spread and should assist with the development of practices to limit the spread of the Formosan subterranean termite.

5. Ecology of Formosan subterranean termites: Established a stake grid at downtown Poplarville, MS, to be used for ecological study and colony characterization study and to determine the efficacy of a newly formulated bait product. We have found termites at the sites (FST but no Reticulitermes sp.) and are in the early stages of establishing in-ground monitoring stations.

6. Electronic detection of termites: A sensitive electronic acoustical detector using enhanced signal amplification and processing has resulted in a patent filed for a permanently installed termite monitor for structures. Early detection of termites using this device would allow treatment of the termite colonies before structural damage is caused.

6.Technology Transfer

Number of New Patent Applications Filed2

Review Publications
Cornelius, M.L., Lyn, M.E., Williams, K.R., Lovisa, M.P., De Lucca II, A.J., Lax, A.R. 2009. The efficacy of bait supplements for improving the rate of discovery of bait stations in the field by the formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Journal of Economic Entomology. 102(3):1175-1181.

Duke, S.O., Blair, A.C., Dayan, F.E., Johnson, R.D., Meepagala, K.M., Cook, D., Bajsa, J.N. 2009. Is (-)-Catechin a "Novel Weapon" of Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe)? Journal of Chemical Ecology. 35:141-153.

Duke, S.O., Dayan, F.E., Bajsa, J.N., Meepagala, K.M., Hufbauer, R.A., Blair, A.C. 2009. The Case Against (-)-Catechin Involvement in Allelopathy in Centaurea stoebe (spotted knapweed). Plant Signaling and Behavior. 4(5):422-424.

Modisett, K.L., Robinson, C.D., Raina, A.K., Lax, A.R., Michael, S.F., Isern, S. 2008. Foreign gene transfer in termite cells using a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus. Journal of Insect Science (8)52:1536-2442.

Choi, M.Y., Raina, A.K., Vander Meer, R.K. 2009. PBAN/Pyrokinin peptides in the central nervous system of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Cell and Tissue Research. 335(2):431-439.

Beaulieu, J.C., Mims, A.G., Kuk, M.S., Park, H. 2009. Extension of green bell pepper shelf life using oilseed-derived lipid films from soapstock. Industrial Crops and Products. 10:1016.

Last Modified: 4/19/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page