Several native termite species provide an essential ecological service in the southwest by breaking down rotting plant matter in desert areas. Drywood termites are relatively unimportant insect pests in most areas of the US, but they are quite destructive in Arizona, as they thrive within arid environments. Dampwood termites are economically insignificant insect pests in Arizona due to their habit of infesting high-moisture wood sources, but subterranean termites inflict a massive amount of costly property destruction in the state every year. Due to Arizona’s rapid expansion of urban and suburban centers in previously unpopulated desert areas, the state has become an important region for studying termite infestation behaviors in newly constructed homes. Researchers with the University of Arizona take advantage of the abundant native termite population in the Sonoran Desert in order to test new termite control methods. One of the most well researched termite control methods in the state involves the use of predatory nematodes.
Modern integrated pest management strategies aim to minimize the use of insecticides in favor of pest prevention tactics and developing non-chemical means for eliminating existing pest infestations. Biological pest control involving nematodes is an ideal IPM termite extermination strategy, as the microscopic creatures secrete corrosive enzymes after being consumed by termite pests, resulting in their brutal death. In addition to being consumed by termites, the nematodes can also penetrate a termite’s outer body, making them effective killers. However, initial research shows that infected worker termites are avoided by their fellow colony members after returning to the nest, preventing the nematodes from spreading throughout a colony. Somehow, it seems, uninfected termites are able to recognize infected colony members, but workers that have ingested slow acting poison acquired from bait stations are not recognized as compromised by other colony members. This allows poison baits to spread throughout a colony via contact with uninfected members.
Have you ever made use of a bait system for termite control around your property?