Turmeric is an important spice crop with documented human health benefits associated with chemicals called curcuminoids. In this study, the termite Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) was exposed to different solvent extracts of turmeric to investigate potential termiticidal properties. Treating termites with hexane extracts of purified lab-grade curcuminoids had no effect on termites. However, in continuous exposure assays, the LC50 for hexane extracts of crude turmeric powder was 9.6 mg, or 1.0mg starting material per square centimeter of filter paper substrate. These active components were soluble in a range of polar and apolar solvents, but only hexane could selectively fractionate active components away from the inactive curcuminoids. The active constituents of turmeric separated by thin layer chromatography (TLC) fluoresced in short-wave UV light but were not visible in long-wave UV light. By reextracting TLC-separated bands in hexane and performing bioassays and gas chromatography—mass spectrometry, we demonstrated that termiticidal components of turmeric are extractable as a blend containing mainly ar-turmerone, turmerone, and curlone. This determination is consistent with findings of preceding work by other researchers that investigated insecticidal properties of turmeric in other pest insects.
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Vol. 108 • No. 4