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, 90 (1), 9-21

Prospects for the Biological Control of Subterranean Termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae), With Special Reference to Coptotermes Formosanus

  • PMID: 10948359

Prospects for the Biological Control of Subterranean Termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae), With Special Reference to Coptotermes Formosanus

T W Culliney et al. Bull Entomol Res.


Costs associated with subterranean termite damage and control are estimated to approach $2 billion annually in the United States alone. The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, is one of the more economically important subterranean species. In recent years, the shortcomings associated with conventional chemical control methods have prompted policymakers and scientists to evaluate the potential for biological control of subterranean termites (C. formosanus in particular), that is, to determine the potential for natural enemies - predators, parasitoids and pathogens - to suppress termite populations. Ants are the greatest predators of termites, and may have a considerable local impact on termite populations in some areas of the world. A few parasitoids of termites are known, but their potential for regulating termite populations seems negligible. Characteristics of the colony, such as a protected, underground location (and, for the C. formosanus nest, its modular and dispersed nature), are likely to limit the impact predators and parasitoids have on subterranean termites. Thus, there seems little potential for use of these agents for subterranean termite control. For various reasons, pathogenic organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, Protozoa, nematodes and most fungi, have shown little promise for use in biological termite control. However, research suggests that strains of two well-studied, endoparasitic fungi, Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae, when employed in baiting schemes, may offer the potential for at least some measure of subterranean termite control, although their successful use is compromised by a number of inherent biological limitations and logistical problems that have yet to be solved. Although not strictly in the realm of classical biological control, recent studies suggest that natural products, such as ant semiochemicals and fungal metabolites (siderophores), or their synthetic analogues, eventually might find a use in termite control programmes as repellents or insecticides in wood treatments or soil applications if stable formulations can be developed.

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