Comparative effects of vetiver oil, nootkatone and disodium octaborate tetrahydrate on Coptotermes formosanus and its symbiotic fauna

Lara Maistrello, LSU Agricultural Center
Gregg Henderson, LSU Agricultural Center
Roger A. Laine, Louisiana State University


The potential of vetiver oil and nootkatone as wood treatments against Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki was examined by assessing the effects on termite tunneling, feeding activity and survival, and the consequences on the symbiont protozoa responsible for wood digestion. Comparisons were made with non-treated wood (control), wood treated with the borate compound Tim-Bor® (a commonly used lumber preservative) and absence of a food source (starved termites), using choice and no-choice tests. All wood slices were prepared at the same time using a 10g liter-1 solution of each substance and were tested in four different sessions over one year to investigate longevity of the effects. Termites had to tunnel through sand to exploit the food sources, consisting of two wood slices, placed on opposite sides of the experimental enclosure. No-choice tests showed that in the presence of vetiver oil or nootkatone, tunneling activity was always the lowest; wood consumption, termite survival and flagellate numbers and species distribution were significantly different from the control and similar to the results obtained for starved termites and with Tim-Bor-treated wood. Nootkatone negatively affected termites for 12 months and was longer lasting than vetiver oil. In choice tests, when vetiver oil or nootkatone were present, termites exhibited a significant preference for non-treated wood. Our results confirmed both the toxicity and absence of repellency of Tim-Bor®. Vetiver oil and especially nootkatone affected Formosan subterranean termites and their protozoa, acting as arrestants, repellents and feeding deterrents, and represent a promising natural alternative for the control of this invasive pest. © 2002 Society of Chemical Industry.