The potential horizontal transfer of nonrepellent termiticides has become an important paradigm to control termites in recent years. In this study, 14C-radiolabeled fipronil was used in a series of laboratory experiments to demonstrate the extent and ability of termites to transfer lethal amounts of fipronil to unexposed nestmates. Fipronil is an active and nonrepellent termiticide against western subterranean termites, Reticulitermes hesperus Banks, on sand at relevant doses. It exhibited delayed toxicity with the lowest LD50 ≈ 0.2 ng/termite expressed between day 4 and 7. Both continuous and brief exposures to fipronil-treated sand seriously impaired the termite’s ability to move and respond to a dodecatrienol trail, limiting potential horizontal transfer. In tunneling studies, fipronil prevented termite tunneling at concentrations as low as 0.5 ppm and was nonrepellent even at 500 ppm. Greater than 90% mortality was recorded by day 7 with concentrations ranging from 0.5 to 500 ppm. There was a linear relationship between the time of exposure and uptake of [14C]fipronil when termites were continuously exposed to 0.5, 1.0, and 5.0 ppm for 24 h. However, uptake discontinued when the termites were immobilized. Maximum transfer of fipronil from donors to recipients occurred within the first 24 h. Fipronil was transferred by body contact and trophallaxis did not play a major role in horizontal transfer. In successive transfer studies, there was not enough fipronil on recipients for them to serve as secondary donors and kill other termites. In a linear arena study, there was an inverse relationship between the amount of fipronil on dead termites and their distance from the treated zone. Maximum mortality was observed within 1.5 m from the treated zone. Results in our laboratory studies suggest that horizontal transfer was not a major factor contributing to the efficacy of fipronil in the field.
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Vol. 100 • No. 2