Termite detection system on its way to your home

Linda Benedict, Bogren, Richard C.  |  10/6/2009 9:20:50 PM

Soon a typical home may include a termite detector as well as a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector, thanks to Gregg Henderson and Jian Chen of the Department of Entomology and Roger Laine of the Department of Biochemistry.

“Most termite inspection starts with a technician in an attic or basement with a flashlight and a screwdriver or knife, poking at rafters and floor joists, looking for damage caused by termites,” Henderson said. “By that time, a lot of damage may have been done.”

Researchers have recently discovered that termites produce naphthalene, a hydrocarbon they apparently use as a defense against natural enemies, such as ants. The detection system, which was developed by the LSU Agricultural Center trio and has a patent pending, samples the air in the walls of a building and analyzes its composition. If the system identifies the chemicals associated with termites, there is a strong possibility they are there.

A homeowner’s inability to actually detect termites rather than discover the results of their activities is a major obstacle in early termite control.

“It’s our weakest link in fighting termites,” Henderson said. “Currently, termites are found through indirect methods after they’ve already done significant damage.”

This high-priority research in termite control was funded through the Louisiana Educational Quality Support Fund, a competitive grant program within the Louisiana State University system.
 
Henderson said the next step is full-scale testing. “We’re negotiating with a national laboratory to develop a device to apply the technology,” Henderson said. “With an agreement in place, it would take about a year to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the system.”

Rick Bogren

(This article was published in the winter 1999 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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