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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGY AND CONTROL OF THE FORMOSAN SUBTERRANEAN TERMITE
2012 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:

Scanning electron micrographs and light micrographs of whole and dissected Formosan termites and other species were obtained. This was done for study of morphological differences between species, for incorporation into a brochure describing identification of subterranean termites to species in the field, and for use in a brochure describing laboratory rearing techniques for Formosan termites. Study of the potential for termites to attack sweet potatoes and white potatoes was initiated. Recent discoveries of Formosan damage to local root crops led to further investigation of this issue. A study of the foraging ecology and species diversity of subterranean termites at Harrison Experimental Forest in Saucier, MS, was established. The Harrison Experimental Forest is the site of trials for the effectiveness of chemicals and wood treatments against termites, and is located in a region where Formosan termites have become established. The purpose of this project was to determine foraging proximities of different subterranean termite species in a heavily infested natural environment, and to establish whether Formosan termites have become established there. Further laboratory tests were conducted to review mortality and consumption of non-traditional mulches by Formosan termites, to find an alternative mulch type to recommend to property owners that will not harbor this invasive pest. Methods for collection of Formosan termite feces for assay were evaluated, so researchers planning a study involving chemical analysis of termite feces understand inherent difficulties in its collection. A study of nitrogenous materials from Formosan termite feces as dietary nitrogen sources was completed, and a study of termite digestion of chitin was performed. Both of these studies were carried out to develop a new understanding as to where termites obtain nitrogen from the environment, which cannot be stored in the insect’s body, and thus, is constantly needed for new protein production. Termites are known to mainly eat wood, which contains almost no protein or nitrogen. Where termites obtain their dietary nitrogen from is still a matter of controversy. Monitoring Formosan subterranean termite colony swarming is repeated annually. Specimens of Formosan termite alates sent to the lab from south Mississippi residents provided for expanding mapping of known areas of Formosan termite infestations in the state. Consulting services include identifying termite infestations in local areas, answering questions via emails and phone calls, examining infested structures, and explaining the necessary termite control tactics and technology. A video recorded discussion on how homeowners can identify Formosan termite infestation of dwellings was aired on the “Farmweek” television program, Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Termite presentations were given to 8th graders at Stone County Middle School Flint Creek Environmental Field Day. Termite presentations were given to Kindergarteners and 3rd graders at North Bay Elementary School Field Day.


Last Modified: 8/19/2014
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