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UF entomology Professor Nan-Yao Su inspects a Sentricon termite monitor/bait station he developed in cooperation with DowElanco.

The University of Florida and DowElanco have developed an environmentally friendly termite control technology known as the Sentricon Colony Elimination System that monitors termite activity, then uses the insects' own behavior to destroy their subterranean colonies.

Nan-Yao Su, professor of entomology at UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Research and Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, worked with DowElanco for more than five years to develop the concept of a termite colony system.

``This is the first treatment developed that kills entire colonies of termites around people's homes,'' Su said.

Termites cause an estimated $1.2 billion in damage annually to more than 1.5 million houses nationwide. UF researchers found that a large colony of seven million Formosan termites can eat 2 to 3 pounds of wood per day, quickly damaging support beams, floor joists, walls, porches and door and window frames.

``Having termites in your yard is like being surrounded by a 75-pound amoeba with large tentacles roaming 300 feet from your house, eating your home for food,'' Su says.

Traditionally, termites have been controlled by drilling holes deep into a house's foundation, then saturating it with heavy concentrations of powerful pesticides.

Su said homeowners should find the Sentricon System much less intrusive because it employs small monitoring/bait stations with child-resistant caps that are placed in the ground around the home.

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Plastic, child-proof monitoring stations are installed flush with the soil surface around the house. Once termites are detected in wooden monitoring devices, they are transferred into a bait tube. They eat their way out and ``recruit'' nest mates to feed on the bait as well. As the bait goes to work, the termites begin to die off.

When termites become active in wooden monitors in the station, pest control technicians transfer the insects into a tube containing bait food with the active chemical. The termites eat their way out of the tube in the station and return to the colony to direct their nestmates to the bait food.

``Termites are very picky about what they will eat. They are capable of recognizing a variety of chemicals and sealing themselves off from them,'' Su said. ``We had to find a slow-acting chemical that could be transmitted throughout the colony via normal feeding activity, and then we had to develop a foolproof delivery system.''

Hexaflumuron, the chemical developed by DowElanco and marketed under the tradename Recruit Termite Bait, is an insect growth regulator that disrupts the termites' molting phase so they are no longer able to make an outer skeleton.

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The durable plastic Sentricon stations make it easy for pest control technicians to check regularly for termite activity and to replace wooden monitoring devices with bait when termites appear.

Because Recruit requires only very small amounts of active ingredients to be effective and is more environmentally friendly than traditional chemical treatments, it is the first compound approved for registration under the Environmental Protection Agency's Reduced-Risk Pesticide Initiative.

``To treat a house using the Sentricon System, you need less than one gram of the hexaflumuron,'' Su said. ``Traditionally, you have needed 5 to 10 kilograms of other pesticides.''

Su added that the system also allows for ongoing protection of the structure since after a colony is eliminated the bait is replaced with new wooden monitoring devices to detect renewed activity.

``We are revolutionizing the way structures are protected from subterranean termites,'' said Kevin Burns, product marketing manager for DowElanco. ``This provides a long-term, permanent approach using the biology of the termite as a weapon against itself.''

That approach earned Sentricon the honor of being used in the environmentally friendly Florida House demonstration project in Sarasota. The house, a cooperative educational venture between the Sarasota County Extension Service and the Florida House Foundation, is intended to apply cutting-edge technology while protecting the environment.


Sentricon was originally installed at the Florida House as a preventive treatment against possible termite attack. Through periodic monitoring, technicians have since detected termites and are now baiting the stations.

``Sentricon is an excellent alternative in subterranean termite control that fits well with the criteria we've set for the Florida House,'' said Sarasota County Extension Director Mike Holsinger. ``Our goal at the Florida House is to provide visitors with practical ideas and products they can use in their lives. Sentricon certainly meets these criteria.''

Su also has been recognized for his efforts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At a ceremony in Washington last June, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman presented him with a 1996 Honor Award, the USDA's highest recognition for outstanding contributions to agriculture and the consumer.

DowElanco was formed in 1989 when Dow Chemical and Eli Lilly combined their agricultural, specialty and plant science businesses.

Beginning this year, DowElanco is commercializing the Sentricon technology on a global basis.

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Foundations of houses are popular dining spots for subterranean termites. The insects cause more than $1 billion damage annually to U.S. houses. Of the thousands of swarmers that fly out of a subterranean termite colony, it takes only one successful pair to start a new colony. Formosan subterranean termites, common throughout the Southeastern United States and Hawaii, swarm from mid-April through July.

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