Purdue University recently developed technology that targets genes in termites that help the insect fight off a potentially deadly fungus.
The developer of the technology, Michael Scharf, is an associate professor and the Orkin Chair in Purdue’s Department of Entomology. According to Scharf, termites damage around 600,000 homes in the U.S. annually. It is his belief that targeting the insect’s biology and behavior will lead to effective methods for controlling infestation and ultimately preventing damage before it occurs.
Insecticides used alone are often ineffective against termites, however, during his research Scharf found that the insecticides killed enough of the microbes that provide resistance to a known pathogenic fungus, to make the termites more vulnerable to the fungus. However, this lowering of microbes proved insufficient to exterminate the termites. Thus, Scharf found the most effective method for extermination is applying insecticides and fungus at the same time.
Scharf is hoping to partner with a company to continue developing and testing the technology.