Rapid termiticide development fails to stem insect swarm.

Rapid termiticide development fails to stem insect swarm.

It’s termite swarming season across the US Southern states, bringing with it billions of dollars of damage to property and a lucrative future for the agrochemical industry. State-wide ’termite awareness’ programmes are being launched in quick succession, but researchers fear their efforts go unnoticed.

’I don’t think many people are quite aware of the pace of product development in termite control,’ says Chris Peterson of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service. ’There are more options than ever for protecting structures from termites.’

Termites occur in all 50 US states except Alaska, but do most damage in the South. They tunnel into wood, eating the soft springwood between the grain, and since they avoid the surface of the wood, damage can remain hidden till it’s irreparable.

Termite damage causes an estimated $1 billion (?545 million) a year, says Peterson, who tests termite control treatments as part of the registration package submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency for product licensing. Products are either termiticides, which kill insects instantly, or baits, slow-acting poisons that lure insects in. ’Based on the number of testing requests that we have received ... [termiticide] research has been more active in the last few years,’ he told Chemistry World.

Product development is clearly a priority. Election officials in the Hawkins County Courthouse in Tennessee have just had to move into neighbouring offices after the floor of their courthouse collapsed - the latest victims of a gathering swarm.

Bea Perks