Repellency and toxicity of 8 essential oils (vetiver grass, cassia leaf, clove bud, cedarwood, Eucalyptus globules, Eucalyptus citrodora, lemongrass and geranium) were evaluated against the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki. Vetiver oil proved the most effective repellent because of its long-lasting activity. Clove bud was the most toxic, killing 100% of termites in 2 days at 50 micrograms/cm2. The tunneling response of termites to vetiver oil also was examined. Vetiver oil decreased termite tunneling activity at concentrations as low as 5 micrograms/g sand. Tunneling and paper consumption were not observed when vetiver oil concentrations were higher than 25 micrograms/g sand. Bioactivity of the 8 oils against termites and chemical volatility were inversely associated. Listed in decreasing order of volatility, the major constituents of the 8 oils were: eucalyptol, citronellal, citral, citronellol, cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, thujopsene, and both alpha- and beta-vetivone. Vetivor oil is a promising novel termiticide with reduced environmental impact for use against subterranean termites.