Termite Colony Tracking Using Proteins

Termites attack thousands of homes every year. They cause homeowners to spend millions of dollars exterminating termites and repairing the damage that they cause.

In order to control termites more effectively, scientists study their feeding habits and foraging patterns. A February 18, 2010 article on sciencedaily.com credits entomologist James Hagler and his associates at the University of Arizona and the University of California with developing a way to mark termites using a protein. The protein can be detected even after day of exposure to the weather.

Originally termites were marked with a protein that was developed from chickens and rabbits. It was very expansive to use, so scientists could not track termites as much as they needed to.

The original system required termites to pick up the protein from a central station. The station contained bait. The termites went to the station to eat the bait. They came in contact with the protein while they were eating.

The newer technology uses protein that is extracted from cow’s milk, soymilk, or egg whites. The protein can be sprayed onto the termites. It can also be applied to other insects that scientists want to track.

The protein tracking system enables scientists to learn about termite foraging patterns. Understanding these foraging patterns is a key to controlling termites effectively.

Scientists will use the information about termite foraging when they design termite bait systems. They will also use this knowledge in developing liquid termiticides for soil barriers.

Experts recommend that homeowners have an annual termite inspection. The termite control professionals can recognize the signs of termite activity. They can point out landscaping and maintenance conditions that might enable termites to get easy access to the home. The inspectors will recommend changes that can help prevent termites from attacking the home.