FLC Southeast Region
2004 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award
The Federal Laboratory Consortium's Southeast Region presents the 2004 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Mid-South Area's Southern Regional Research Center for development of a new bait matrix formula based on nutritional studies of the Formosan Subterranean Termite. The matrix provides the pest with essential nutrients and feeding stimulants, but also contains either slow-acting toxins or insect growth regulators.
Invasive pests are damaging and difficult to control because they have left their natural enemies (predators, parasites, and pathogens) behind. The Formosan subterranean termite (FST) arrived in the US from the South Pacific over 50 years ago. Now established in 11 states, it costs an estimated $1 billion annually in property damage, repairs and control. Other invasive species are the red imported fire ant and the Argentine ant. Fire ants annually cause millions of dollars in damage in the US and are now found in 17 states, Puerto Rico and northern Mexico. Argentine ants cause significant structural damage in California and also causes damage to citrus trees by protecting other pests from their natural enemies.
The new bait matrix formula requires up to 90 percent less active material than existing commercial termite bait products. Additionally, the developers found that low concentrations of naphthalenic compounds, similar to substances found in mothballs, were a safe and effective feeding stimulant and synergistic toxicant. The new product helps to control both native termites and fire ants, is environmentally friendly, is effective in very low concentrations and contains no heavy metals. It is also cheap, costing only $1 per gram, compared to $50 per gram for products currently on the market.
The initial fire ant bait matrix was developed in cooperation with Ensystex, Inc., under a CRADA. The ARS developers also cooperated with Waterbury Companies, Inc., under a Specific cooperative Agreement, to develop a gel presentation based on the original ant bait matrix formulation. The fire ant bait matrix has been patented, licensed and a commercial product (Labyrinth) was introduced outside the US in 2002. A patent for the naphthalinic compounds has issued, and an exclusive license is currently under negotiation. A patent application, which has been licensed, has been filed for the ant bait matrix, and a new bait gel, "Drax NutraBait," was introduced in 2004. A granular version of Drax NutraBait will be marketed as soon as EPA issues registration.
The new bait matrices were developed by Dr. Maria Guadalupe Rojas and Dr. Juan A. Morales-Ramos, both research entomologists, at the Formosan Subterranean Termite Research Unit in New Orleans, LA.