There is some disagreement within the scientific community about the true number of termite species that have been documented worldwide. A simple Google search will immediately tell you that more than 2,000 termite species have been documented worldwide, and Wikipedia claims that 3,106 species are currently in the books. The true amount is likely in between these two figures, as one study claims that 2,700 termite species have been documented, another claims 2,750, and yet another study claims that 2,800 species have been described. A research survey conducted by two entomologists has the number of termites documented in the world somewhere in between 2,300 and 3,000. Of these termite species, only 183 are known to inflict damage to structural wood within homes and buildings, and 83 species cause significant damage. Although the United States sees a great deal of termite destruction, the number of termite species documented in all of North America is relatively low.
More than 1,000 documented termite species inhabit Africa, while Asia and Australia have around half this amount. Europe is home to only ten termite species, far lower than North America’s 50 species. Despite the relatively low number of termite species in the US, the amount of money spent on termite control and damage repairs annually in the country exceeds 5 billion dollars, more than any other country. This figure does not include research into termite pests and the cost of developing new termite control methods. Unsurprisingly, America has a long history of experimenting with various termite control strategies, and some have succeeded and are now, or will soon be introduced onto the market, but others, while novel, failed to be effective.
Integrated pest management strategies aim to prevent termite infestations, rather than eradicating existing infestations. The use of termiticide barriers may be the most popular preventative termite control tactic today due to its proven efficacy at preventing termites from accessing properties, but this method got off to a rocky start. While modern termiticides are often organic, and therefore, environmentally friendly, the first termiticides used for soil barriers used the highly toxic poison, arsenic. For a brief period of time, arsenic dust was ejected into the mud tubes built by foraging termite workers, which was a less than expedient eradication method considering that termites traverse numerous mud tubes that are located in obscured areas where they remain hidden from pest controllers.
In some countries, various strains of pathogenic fungi are used to poison termites, but since termites are highly sensitive to microbes, they were repelled by the fungal growths. Non-pathogenic fungi has been used with success as a bait for luring termites to insecticides. One of the strangest termite control techniques ever tested saw entomologists plant parasitic nematodes within soil inhabited by termites. The researchers were hoping that the nematodes would kill off foraging termites, but numerous laboratory and field studies proved that this tactic is almost entirely ineffective.
Are you hoping that more effective termite control products will soon become available to consumers?