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Termites never take a break from causing misery to humans. This makes termite control a booming industry. One common method of insect control involves luring pests to poison with bait. In order to make bait-traps effective, insect pests must be lured to poison by odors that they find attractive. The poison must also taste like something that a particular insect would eat. As you can imagine, developing bait-traps is a tricky undertaking as it is not easy for experts to  synthese chemicals that successfully appeal to an insect’s sense of hunger. This is why the manufacturing of many bait-trap products have been discontinued. Obviously, insects are attracted to other insects for food, therefore insects would make the best bait for trapping insect pests. When it comes to controlling one particularly damaging invasive ant in America, a long-time entomologist has found that poisoned termites make for the best bait.

Grzegorz Buczkowski, a research associate professor in the Department of Entomology at Purdue University, has developed the first insect control device that uses insects as a form of bait in insect pest traps. The bait-traps developed by Buczkowski are designed to trap and kill problematic Argentine ants. These ants were accidentally transported from Argentina to the United States a century ago, but now they are becoming highly problematic. Growing Argentine ant populations in America are displacing native insect populations. These displaced native insects are essential components to the particular ecosystems where they dwell.

Buczkowski uses an insecticide called “fipronil” to coat the bodies of hundreds or even thousands of termites. Buczkowski then releases these termites into regions that are highly populated with Argentine ants. Since Argentine ants are determined to become the dominant insect species in every environment in which they dwell, the ants quickly defeat the poisoned termites in battle before feeding on them for their protein. A field test conducted in South Africa showed that ninety eight percent of one Argentine ant population had become eradicated from a particular environment. Since ants will never pass up an opportunity to eat termites, the new bait-trap is virtually one hundred percent effective. Buczkowski is hoping that his traps will be used to control invasive Argentine ant populations within the US.

Do you think that the poisoned termites could cause some entirely new environmental problems if they are released into the wild as a type of bait for ants?

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