Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGY AND CONTROL OF THE FORMOSAN SUBTERRANEAN TERMITE
2010 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Determine the mechanisms and rates of geographic dispersion of the Formosan Subterranean termite (FST) in Mississippi. 2. Develop and implement biologically-based cultural/ecological control technology against termites in urban environments and incorporate into an area-wide termite IPM project in Mississippi. 3. Provide an effective educational program in Mississippi to convey information on termite biology and current effective control measures.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
1. In order to best understand the spread of FST in south Mississippi, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence markers which identify maternal lineages will be used to track termite gene flow to infer possible routes of spread of FST in Mississippi. An approach of combining different markers with alternate modes of inheritance, such as nuclear and mtDNA markers can help us discern the maternal and paternal contributions to gene flow and population structure.

2. Our laboratory results showed that repellence and virulence of certain fungal conidia when applied to tree-based mulches will significantly reduce the suitability of these mulches as a habitat for FST. The performance of mulches treated with entomopathogenic fungi against FST foraging behavior, colony mortality, and product persistence will be investigated under field conditions.

3. The general approach will include dissemination of information to the public through newsletters, pamphlets, a website, workshops, and scheduled field days. Appropriate mobile displays with current information on the biology and control of FST will be developed for use in rural communities and in public schools and at meetings of local citizen groups in Mississippi.


3.Progress Report

Formosan Subterranean Termites (FST) have long been viewed as a nuisance to the general public, but new studies have shown that they may provide a valuable resource. These termites have the potential to release a significant amount of hydrogen as a byproduct of the breakdown of cellulose in their guts. Our study provides new evidence that the termite gut may hold a solution to developing efficient cellulose-based bio-hydrogen production, due to the distinctive and resourceful micro-organisms contained in the gut system. These micro-organisms, protozoa and bacteria, contribute to cellulose and hemi-cellulose digestion efficiency, and are most likely responsible for the production of hydrogen and methane. The first phase of this project has been completed, but further investigation is needed. Alate (winged termite) swarms are one of the visible signs of expansion of the Formosan subterranean termites in an area. Therefore, Formosan subterranean alates are currently being monitored during swarm season by use of a light trap. This trap is set in the same place and for the same duration yearly. The captured alates are counted daily. Data are used in comparison with previously collected data in order to obtain an understanding of population growth and expansion in this area. Alates from this project are then used in the evaluation of egg production, in which paired kings and queens are provided an environment conducive for egg laying. Once egg production begins, eggs and soldier/worker ratios are counted weekly for one year. Captured alates are also used to evaluate mate selection, monogamy, and spermatogenesis (the formation of mature sperm). These projects are on going. Landscape mulch is known to provide an excellent environment to Formosan subterranean termites, therefore, it is often recommended to homeowners to keep mulch products away from the foundation of their homes in order to aid in the prevention of a termite infestation. The desire to have meticulously landscaped yards often overrides this advice. Various types of ‘non-traditional’ mulches, such as recycled tires, cocoa shells, and coconut fiber, are currently being evaluated for their palatability to Formosan subterranean termites. The goal of this study is to find an alternative mulch type to recommend to property owners that will not harbor this invasive pest. Progress in this project is monitored through Annual FST Technical Committee Meetings, reports, regular meetings with cooperators, routine phone calls, and e-mail correspondence.


Last Modified: 9/20/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page