Research at Colorado State University Leads to Launching of Nationwide Service to Help Prevent Termite Damage

A new environmentally friendly termite attractant discovered by a Colorado State University research team has launched a new Fort Collins company, which recently unveiled the product nationwide. Interval33, a bait that emits carbon dioxide to lure termites to small sources of insecticide, was introduced by Brotica Inc., after Louis Bjostad and Elisa Bernklau, entomologists at Colorado State, discovered that carbon dioxide is a strong attractant of termites, which resulted in the development of the new method of termite control.

The Colorado State University Research Foundation, a private, non-profit foundation that aids the university in technology transfer, helped Bjostad apply for a patent and helped Brotica Inc. market the carbon dioxide technology. Technology transfer takes university research and converts it into tangible products that improve people’s day-to-day lives by working with private sector partners.

"Researchers are always looking to benefit people, but before universities began promoting technology transfer, ordinary people really didn’t see the benefits of new research," said Bjostad, professor of bioagricultural sciences and pest management. "CSURF makes it easier for companies to take university research and introduce it into the market place."     

Interval33 emits carbon dioxide through the soil to attract termites from a distance and lures them to the source of insecticide. Carbon dioxide accelerates the termites’ discovery of insecticide bait stations, making them easier for termites to locate and leading to faster pest control. Other insecticide bait stations that only use pesticides do not attract termites to their bases, and it can take months for the insects to come in contact with the pesticide. Interval33 has been engineered to generate a carbon dioxide concentration of one percent, which is the optimum carbon dioxide concentration for termite attraction. Low levels of carbon dioxide are also found in rotting wood and other termite foods.       

The pesticide chlordane, which was commonly used to control termites without a baiting approach, was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1985 because of risks to the environment and to the human central and peripheral nervous system. Now that chlordane is illegal, interest in termite ecology has increased because of the need for a safe alternative to the chemical. The carbon dioxide attractant discovered at Colorado State helps bring efficient termite control back to the public.

Termites are wood-destroying pests most commonly found in the South. New developments and centrally heated homes all over the United States have brought these pests from the South to every region in the nation. According to Bjostad, termites cause $22 billion in structural damage annually around the world. This includes $11 billion in annual damage in the United States, including damage in Colorado, where many residents are unaware of termite infestation. New research shows that termites cause more damage to homes than fires.

To deal with termite infestation, people can choose to apply a pesticide to the entire structure, use a baiting approach or use a combination of both. Baits usually contain paper, cardboard or other termite food combined with a slow-acting insecticide that kills them. The bait sits in a monitoring station in the ground near a contaminated home. The idea is for worker termites to feed on the bait and bring it back to the nest. However, without carbon dioxide as an attractant, it can take termites weeks or months to find the bait.