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Tricky termite infestation bugs KSU entomology dept

By Bethany Knipp

Apparently K-State’s entomology department can have too many bugs.

Officials at Waters Hall, the building that houses the department, have been working for 25 years to rid the building of termites.

The infestation was particularly difficult to treat in the entomology department, because other bugs, some of which are required to be alive for use of study, already live there.

Pesticides could kill the bugs that need to be kept alive, entomology department head and professor John Ruberson said. 

Ruberson said that’s happened before at the previous institutions where he’s taught. All the experimental insects died, he said.

As an alternative to pesticides, a treatment called Sentricon was applied in August 2013. The product is a tube with alpha cellulose paper pulp that’s laced with growth-inhibiting bait. It was installed in the ground all around the outside of the building.

Ruberson said the termites eat the bait, and it slowly kills termite colonies as the termites eat each other.

As of Tuesday when officials conducted a test, no live termites were found, Travis Aggson of American Pest Management in Manhattan, said.

That’s good news, but also bad news, said Zach Morehead of Dow AgroSciences, which partners with the pest management company.

Morehead said they wanted to find a few live termites so that students could study them Wednesday afternoon.

Ruberson said it’s unknown how much structural damage the termites have done over the years. Termites have tried to make Waters Hall a home for a long time. 

“We know the termites in the building have been active for 25 years,” Ruberson said.

He said the termites that recently died were descendants of colonies that were established decades ago.

Ruberson said other treatments for termites include treating the wood itself, which would only kill the bugs if they ate the treated wood.

Ruberson said they can’t find out what damage was done inside the building without tearing up walls, but no floors have caved so far. Though this round of bugs is gone, more colonies could be underground outside of Waters waiting to come in, Morehead said.

“We don’t have any active feeding at this point in time, which doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be any ever again,” he said.

Perhaps the termites thought they were welcome in the entomology department.

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