Sponsoring Institution
Forest Service/USDA
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Jan 23, 2015
Project End Date
Jan 22, 2020
Grant Year
Project Director
Clausen, C.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
Conditions regulating native subterranean termites in natural habitats are poorly understood. As primary wood decomposers, termites contribute to nutrient cycling, soil fertility and stability, and forest productivity, so alterations to ecosystems from climate change is critical. Research is needed to investigate the biological, ecological, and physical parameters associated with the diversity and distribution of termites in forest ecosystems. Research on the temporal and spatial effects of sub-lethal doses of termiticides on foraging behavior and termite physiology is needed. Likewise, the distribution and fate of termiticides in soil may be intimately linked to termite control failures and means of prevention. If we can understand the role of symbiotic microbiota of termites in regulating colony health, that information might elucidate factors that allow some termite species to survive control measures. Research findings may point to a specific microbial metabolite from termite gut microorganisms that can be used to develop targeted and integrated pest control methods. Repair costs associated with structural damage caused by termites and protection measures to prevent termite damage are estimated to be $10 billion annually in the U.S. Economic losses resulting from the northward spread of termites are projected to grow as a result of changes in climate, underscoring the importance of protecting structural building components from this pest through the development of environmentally safe and effective biocides and targeted baiting techniques.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The objectives of this problem area are to study are to the role of termites in forest ecosystems as wood decomposers and how they contribute to nutrient cycling, soil fertility and stability, and forest productivity and how it relates to ecosystem alterations from climate change. Changes in climate have already altered the northern limit for recorded damage by subterranean termites resulting in obvious increases in the geographic area where wood structures are susceptible to infestation and damage. Prescriptive best building practices and mandatory preservative treatments for protection of building envelopes from termite damage would help address this problem. New ranges need to be established, mapped and monitored. Improved treatments and methodology that deals with logistical issues for targeted treatments could dramatically change the pest control industry, including bait, barrier and termiticide applications.
Project Methods
Gaining an understanding of the habitat requirements supporting different termite species will serve as a platform for more complex studies on termite colony, population and community dynamics. Results from ecological studies will serve as the foundation for development and implementation of improved integrated treatment strategies directed against termites.

Progress 10/01/16 to 09/30/17

OUTPUTS: Protecting in-service wood from termite feeding is estimated to cost between 5 and 11 billion dollars annually, considering both control costs plus repair/replacement of damaged structures. These estimates are from a few years ago (2011), so this may be an underestimate of current costs. While termites are beneficial in their native habitat (the forest), they are serious pests in structures. There are two avenues that need to be taken for developing new termite control measures, the first is knowing their behaviors and biology in the forest, and the second is learning to take advantage of that knowledge to implement more effective (and hopefully more efficient) termite control strategies for structural protection. Our unit has produced information from both avenues this year. Three different papers looking at the bacteria occurring in termite hindguts, as well as another paper using a new product to control termites by killing off their hindgut symbionts. Our annual termiticide report provides information to homeowners and pest management professionals on the efficacy of currently available termiticides. Potential damage to cross laminated timber products are being studied with cooperators at Mississippi State University. Other MSU cooperators are working with Dr. Tang to understand the changes in the soil ecosystem (which certainly includes termites) surrounding beetle killed trees in forests. Additional data on termite control using extractives (see problem #1) also apply here. PARTICIPANTS: Unit personnel involved in this research are: Rachel Arango, Craig Bell, Tina Ciaramitaro, Shawn Cooper, Blossie Boyd, Don Fye, Mark Mankowski, Thomas Shelton, and Juliet Tang. TARGET AUDIENCES: This problem area has the largest audience of all three problem areas in our unit. The research produced this year (and most others) apply to anyone that owns a structure (houses, businesses, etc.) in all parts of the U.S. (mainly prevalent in the Southeastern U.S., but termites have been found in all states). Regulators, chemical manufacturers and pest management companies will be interested in the information provided by our annual FS termiticide report. Academic researchers will find the research on termite hindgut bacteria of interest in understanding the full ecosystem of the termite hindgut, which may offer insight into eventual control strategies using that information (for example the work on chitosan treatments of termites).

The data reported for any year⿿s problem area #2 helps homeowners understand their options for termite control measures. This also applies to the companies that will sell the treatment to the homeowners. More specific to this year, our unit has been looking to understand the bacterial component of the termite hindgut, and some have even started looking at ways to exploit our knowledge of these microbial symbionts to control termites. More work is needed, but it is promising. This type of information is important to industrial cooperators who may choose to develop products reflecting these ideas. Cross laminated timber has been used in a limited number of high-rise wooden structures without the benefit of understanding how termites will respond to these huge food resources. Since a few of these buildings are already in place, we are behind in the necessary understanding of how a primary wood decay agent will respond, and what types of control methods will be necessary to protect these structures in the future.


  • Arango, Rachel A.; Green III, Frederick; Yang, Vina W.; Lindholm, Joliene R.; Chotlos, Nathaniel P.; Raffa, Kenneth F. 2017. Evaluating the role of Actinobacteria in the gut of wood-feeding termites (Reticulitermes spp.). In: The International Research Group on Wood Protection, Section 1, Biology: Paper prepared for the IRG48 Scientific Conference on Wood Protection. Ghent, Belgium: 4-8.
  • Franca, F.J.N.; Franca, T.S.F.A.; Arango, R.A; Woodward, B.M.; Vidaurre, G.B. 2017. Variation in natural durability of seven Eucalyptus grandis x Eucalyptus urophylla hybrid clones. Forest Products Journal. 67(3/4): 230-235.
  • Shelton, Thomas; Fye, Donald; Tang, Juliet; Mankowski, Mark. 2017.  USFS termiticide report: a new era for termiticide tests.  Pest Management Professional. May 2017. pp. 4.
  • França, Tâmara Suely Filgueira Amorim; França, Frederico José Nistal; Arango, Rachel A.; Woodward, Bessie M.; Arantes, Marina Donária Chaves. 2016. Natural resistance of plantation grown African mahogany (Khaya ivorensis and Khaya senegalensis) from Brazil to wood-rot fungi and subterranean termites. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation. 107: 88-91.
  • Raji, Olanrewaju; Jeremic-Nikolic, Dragica; Tang, Juliet D. 2017. Diversity of Hindgut Bacterial Population in Subterranean Termite, Reticulitermes flavipes. In: Proceedings, American Wood Protection Association Annual Meeting 2016. San Juan, PR. 112. 48-53.
  • Raji, Olanrewaju; Tang, Juliet D.; Telmadarrehei, Telmah; Jeremic, Dragica. 2017. Analysis of hindgut bacterial phyla frequency and diversity in subterranean termites exposed to chitosan-treated wood. In: The International Research Group on Wood Protection, Section 1, Biology: Paper prepared for the IRG48 Scientific Conference on Wood Protection. Ghent, Belgium: 2-8.

Progress 10/01/15 to 09/30/16

OUTPUTS: As the most economically important wood destroying insect in the U.S., subterranean termites are often difficult to control in and around structures. These termites are rarely visible as they nest underground and construct shelter tubes for protection when they forage on wood in use. Being unseen by the casual observer, these insects usually go unnoticed until they have caused significant damage to structures and other items (wooden fences, posts, etc.). Since they are such an important pest, efforts to develop useful technologies for their control has been a focus of the Forest Products Laboratory Durability and Wood Protection research work unit (in various incarnations) for almost 80 years. This year, our efforts in termite control have included many examinations of durable wood-derived extractives for potential use against termites, examinations of the antibiotic properties of termite gut fauna (a possible means of controlling wood destroying fungal pests), as well as basic information characterizing the hindgut fauna of termites. In addition, our project provides homeowners and pest management professionals an annual report of standardized studies on the efficacy of various soil-applied termiticides in preventing termite feeding.

The results of these studies are of interest to a wide variety of users, from homeowners making decisions about control measures implemented for their homes and the pest management companies decisions on what products to offer to industry and other scientists interested in the control of termites through alternate measures offered by the natural product (extractives) research produced by our unit this year. Academics interested in the basic biology of termites will be interested in the work being done on characterizing the gut fauna of native subterranean termites.


  • Arango, R.A.; Carlson, C.M.; Currie, C.R.; McDonald, B.R.; Book, A.J.; Green III, F.; Lebow, N.K.; Raffa, K.F. 2016. Antimicrobial activity of actinobacteria isolated from the guts of subterranean termites. Environmental Entomology. pp. 1-9.
  • Hassan, Barbar; Mankowski, Mark; Kirker, Grant; Ahmed, Sohail; ul Haq, Muhammad Misbah. 2016. Antitermitic activities of Shisham (Dalbergia sissoo Roxb) heartwood extractives against two termite species. Proceedings IRG Annual Meeting (ISSN 2000-8953), IRG/WP 16-10856. Lisbon, Portugal. 15-19 May 2016. Stockholm, Sweden. The International Research Group on Wood Protection, Section 1 Biology. 16 pp.
  • Mankowski, Mark E.; Boyd, Blossie; Hassan, Barbar; Kirker, Grant T. 2016. GC-MS characterizations of termiticidal heartwood extractives from wood species utilized in Pakistan. In: Proceedings IRG Annual Meeting, Lisbon, Portugal. (ISSN 2000-8953) IRG/WP 16-10857, The International Research Group on Wood Protection. Stockholm, Sweden. Section 1, Biology. 16 pp.
  • Shelton, Thomas; Fye, Donald; Mankowski, Mark; Tang, Juliet. 2016. Termiticide testing continues, The USFS presents its annual termiticide report for 2015. Pest Management Professional. April. pp. 52-70.

Progress 10/01/14 to 09/30/15

OUTPUTS: Efficacy data to satisfy the EPA registration requirements for candidate termiticides continues to be a critical service provided by the termiticide testing program of the U.S. Forest Service. Subterranean termites live in an environment where they are constantly exposed to potentially pathogenic microorganisms. Healthy termites appear to be able to control microbial growth while termites weakened by toxicant exposure exhibit a variety of fungal or bacterial infections. The potential role of symbiotic bacteria in pathogen inhibition in termite colonies is being investigated to discover how to disrupt the microbial symbionts and make a termite colony more susceptible to disease as an eco-friendly termite control strategy. During the course of this research, it was discovered for the first time that the termite species Reticulitermes tibialis Banks is established in Wisconsin. This discovery was confirmed by genetic testing along with the genetic characteristics of successful colony establishment of termites along the northern boundary of activity. A study on remote sensing of termites, funded by the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program administered by the Federal Highway Administration, concluded that it is feasible and cost effective to use remote sensing technology to monitor valuable wooden structures such as historic covered bridges, against termite infestation and potential structural damage. TARGET AUDIENCES: Pest management professionals, wood preservation industry, standards associations, university cooperators, government agencies, structural engineers, contractors, homeowners

For a termiticide to reach the American market where it is available for purchase by pest management professionals, it must undergo rigorous field testing prior to consideration for Federal registration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Fundamental and applied research on termite ecology, colony behavior, and new detection technologies will lead to advanced methods for controlling termite infestations in wood-framed structures.


  • Green III, Frederick; Arango, Rachel A.; Boardman, Charles R.; Bourne, Keith J.; Hermanson, John C.; Munson, Robert A. 2015. Remote sensing for detection of termite infestations⿿Proof of Concept. Proceedings IRG Annual Meeting (ISSN 2000-8953) 2015. The International Research Group on Wood Protection IRG/WP 15-10846; 2015; pp.
  • Shelton, Thomas; Fye, Donald; Tang, Juliet; Mankowski, Mark 2015. Command Performance The USFS presents its annual Termiticide Report for 2014. Pest Management Professional March 2015; pp. 42-46.