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The EntomoBiotic Termite Interceptor, Annunciator, & Inoculator (TIAI)

Please note that this device, though successfully tested throughout Texas, has not been placed into commercial production. We have no plans to market the device. The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only.

Max E. Badgley Memorial Edition

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Summary: Thanks to help from many sources, our most advanced Termite Interceptor, Annunciator, & Inoculator achieved a major milestone.  During 2007-8 this device was used throughout Texas to prevent termite colonies from infesting and damaging manufactured structures and living botanicals like trees and shrubs.  It worked by intercepting termite colonies and inoculating their workers with biological agents, such as entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN), all without resorting to the use of toxic chemical termiticides. Scroll down to read full text of article.  Next...

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            Fig. 1: EntomoBiotic Termite Interceptor, Annunciator, & Inoculator (TIAI). This device, shown above, was inserted into the soil around homes and businesses where subterranean termites forage for food. When termites came into contact with it, they chewed through the BUGWALL barrier that seals the termite entrance ports in its sides. Once inside, the termites ate its food material. Soon the termites changed the appearance of the top signal ports, informing the user of their presence. The user then poured a solution of EPN and water through the screened ports in the top, and followed up with additional treatments (inoculations) as appropriate. The nematodes infect the termites, who carried the infection back to the rest of the colony. More EntomoBiotic TIAI images and information.

We used specially-designed termite interceptors & inoculators to treat termite colonies at homes and businesses throughout Texas, all without resorting to the use of toxic chemical termiticides.  The device we used was developed over many years of experimentation and field testing. We call it he EntomoBiotic Termite Interceptor, Annunciator, & Inoculator (TIAI).

Please note that this device, though successfully tested throughout Texas, has not been placed into commercial production. We have no plans to market the device. The information provided here is for educational purposes only.

The words entomo (Greek for "insect"), and biotic (Latin for "life processes"), express how we use scientific knowledge about the life processes of pest insects to bring them under control. Implicit in this is the further objective of seeking rational control methods that have the least possible impact on the environment, while keeping risks to the user at the lowest level possible.

The EntomoBiotic TIAI intercepts termites where they forage in the soil and concentrates them in large numbers within its confines. When it annunciates their presence, it signals a user to inoculate its confines with biological agents such as entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN). In this way it works as a crucial part of the IRIM i3 program to nullify, and ultimately eliminate, the termite colony's ability to infest and damage manufactured structures and living botanicals such as trees and shrubs.

The EntomoBiotic TIAI honors Max E. Badgley, an insect photographer who dedicated his life to furthering rational, biologically-based insect control methods. In so doing, it also honors all who seek to employ non-toxic and least-toxic methods of pest management, particularly for the management of subterranean termites.

The EntomoBiotic TIAI is optimized to perform well in all climates, and with every species of subterranean termite found in North America.

Historical Perspective: Breaking New Ground

The concept of inoculating biological agents into termite colonies, using termite interceptors as inoculation windows, represents a new twist to termite baiting. Until the early 1990's, the common method prescribed for treating subterranean termites was an indirect approach that used large amounts of toxic liquid termiticides to inundate the soil next to homes and other structures. This created "termite-proof" barriers intended to deny termites access to the protected structures, but also laced the soil with toxicants. 

With the advent of termite baits in 1994 it became possible to attack termite colonies directly. This direct method involved planting feeding stations in the soil that contained a toxicant bait that either suppressed or eliminated termite colonies. In most cases, the toxicants used in these termite baits belong to relatively new classes of chemicals. Their safety profiles, therefore, are not well established. Even the safest of these new classes of toxicants pose dangers to humans and other mammals and must be dispensed in tamper-resistant enclosures to prevent their exposure to pets and children.

EPA-mandated testing of newer classes of toxicants cannot use actual humans, so the effects observed with laboratory animals, such as rats and rabbits, must be extrapolated to the human body. Such toxicant studies employ an imperfect science that cannot tell us precisely how humans are effected, either in the long or short term. That alone justifies the search for non-toxic and least-toxic alternatives.

Besides the possible risks of human exposure, the requirement that toxicant baits be placed in child and pet resistant bait station also has economic and practical consequences. The tedious, time-consuming processes of inspecting and servicing such stations make them unusually expensive to use.

By comparison, EPN used for termite control in the EntomoBiotic TIAI are natural, insect-specific antagonists whose safety to mammals is unquestioned. Because there are no restrictions on exposure, such agents can be inoculated without taking the usual precautions required for toxicant termiticides. The interceptors themselves are open devices that can be inspected and serviced without posing any risks to the user, children, or pets.

Our Sincere Thanks

Many have labored with us, and invested time and other resources to move this project along.  Others, principally research scientists in academia and industry, have provided--through their published works, correspondence, and other communications--the intellectual foundation necessary for this work to proceed. It goes without saying that we are very grateful. It is not necessary for a project of this nature to achieve commercial viability in order to accomplish important objectives. The lessons we learned were many and varied, and the education we acquired in the process was invaluable.

More Details on the EntomoBiotic TIAI

 More on Termite Detection & Interception

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Links to Important Articles related to Termite Biology:

Barbara Thorne et al. discuss recent discoveries in termite biology:  http://www.lfsc-courses.umd.edu/cv/docs/entm_cv/bthorne/04PCT_May03_reprint.pdf  Dr. Thorne is a recognized authority in termite biology, and holds several patents on termite detection devices.  She, in collaboration with Dr. James Traniello, the co-author of this article, developed the first convertible termite detector/bait station, defining the essential elements of the art.  Her research led to a revolution in the field of subterranean termite detection and management.

Gunther Becker, on termites and wood: http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rarv/v28n2/20993.pdf

Regina Célia Gonçalves PeraltaI et al discusses wood consumption rates of forest species by subterranean termites:  http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0100-67622004000200015&script=sci_arttext

Thomas Fuchs et al. on desert termites: http://insects.tamu.edu/extension/bulletins/uc/uc-016.html

Barbara Thorne et al. on searching for and destroying subterranean termites: http://www.lfsc-courses.umd.edu/cv/docs/entm_cv/bthorne/01PCT_February04.pdf

Mary Duryea on termites in mulch: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FR075

Jody Green et al. on effects of moisture on termite food consumption:  http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/Green_et_al_2005.pdf

Please send suggested additions to the above list, or corrections to any of the captions provided, to jerry.cates@entomobiotics.com.

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