Laboratory and field data reported in the literature are confusing with regard to “adequate” protection thresholds for borate timber preservatives. The confusion is compounded by differences in termite species, timber species and test methodology. Laboratory data indicate a borate retention of 0.5% mass/mass (m/m) boric acid equivalent (BAE) would cause >90% termite mortality and restrict mass loss in test specimens to ≤5%. Field data generally suggest that borate retentions appreciably >0.5% m/m BAE are required. We report two field experiments with varying amounts of untreated feeder material in which Coptotermes acinaciformis (Froggatt) (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) responses to borate-treated radiata (Monterey) pine, Pinus radiata D. Don, were measured. The apparently conflicting results between laboratory and field data are explained by the presence or absence of untreated feeder material in the test environment. In the absence of untreated feeder material, wood containing 0.5% BAE provided adequate protection from Coptotermes sp., whereas in the presence of untreated feeder material, increased retentions were required. Furthermore, the retentions required increased with increased amounts of susceptible material present. Some termites, Nasutitermes sp. and Mastotermes darwiniensis Froggatt, for example, are borate-tolerant and borate timber preservatives are not a viable management option with these species. The lack of uniform standards for termite test methodology and assessment criteria for efficacy across the world is recognized as a difficulty with research into the performance of timber preservatives with termites. The many variables in laboratory and field assays make “prescriptive” standards difficult to recommend. The use of “performance” standards to define efficacy criteria (“adequate” protection) is discussed.
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