Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #322721

Research Project: Invasive Ant Biology and Control

Location: Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research

Title: Microbial control of structural insect pests

Author
item Pereira, Roberto - University Of Florida
item Oi, David
item Baggio, Mariah - University Of Florida
item Koehler, Phillip - University Of Florida

Submitted to: Academic Press
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/13/2016
Publication Date: 9/22/2017
Citation: Pereira, R., Oi, D.H., Baggio, M.V., Koehler, P. 2017. Microbial control of structural insect pests. In: Lacey, L., editors. Microbial Control of Insect and Mite Pests. 1st edition. Salt Lake City, UT: Academic Press. p. 431-442.

Interpretive Summary: Ants, termites, and peridomestic cockroaches, as well as other structural pests, are a growing concern as urbanization expands worldwide. Natural products, instead of conventional insecticides, have an increasing following among urbanites, perhaps providing an avenue for the use of microbial control agents on structural pests. Three major pest groups affecting urban structures, ants, termites, and peridomestic cockroaches, are potentially the most amenable for the development of microbial controls. It is not only because of their economic importance, but their biology and ecology make them more susceptible to control by microbes. In this chapter, researchers from the Entomology & Nematology Dept. at the University of Florida and the ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural & Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, FL, review the utilization of microbial control for structural insect pests. For ants, termites and peridomestic cockroaches, their life cycle outside of human structures, offers better opportunities for microbial control because of higher moisture levels and moderate temperatures usually fall within the optimal ranges for insect pathogens. Other structural pests which can live completely indoors and in close proximity to humans, for example fleas and bedbugs, make the use of microbial control agents very challenging. More investments in research on insect pathogens and their utilization are needed to advance microbial control solutions for the structural pest control sector.

Technical Abstract: Three major pest groups affecting urban structures, ants, termites, and peridomestic cockroaches, are potentially the most amenable for the development of microbial controls. It is not only because of their economic importance, but their biology and ecology make them more susceptible to control by entomopathogens. These three pest groups spend a majority of their life cycle outside human structures, which offers better opportunities for microbial control because of higher moisture levels outdoors and moderate temperatures that are usually within the optimal range for entomopathogenic activity. The application of microbes outdoors, even those with proven records of human safety, has a lower perceived risk to human health than indoors applications. Thus, efficacy and regulatory requirements for microbial controls can be less stringent relative to indoor use patterns. Eusocial insects such as ants and termites, which live in nests, and congregating pests like cockroaches, have behaviours that facilitate the spread of pathogens. The close proximity of individuals, plus food and secretion exchange, facilitate pathogen transmission. Nests and harborage areas can be targeted for the application of microbial control agents either by direct application or by baits that are shared among nestmates via trophallaxis, coprophagy, or other behaviors (e.g. grooming). For some pests like imported fire ants, classical biological control with entomopathogens is a complimentary option to microbial control agents applied as biopesticides. Other structural pests which can live completely indoors and in close proximity to humans, for example fleas and bedbugs, make the use of microbial control agents very challenging. The three pest groups highlighted here, as well as other structural pests, are a growing concern as urban populations expand. Natural products, instead of conventional insecticides, have an increasing following among urbanites around the world, perhaps providing an avenue for the further use of microbial controls. However, more investments in research and the utilization of insect pathogens are needed to advance microbial control solutions for the structural pest control sector.