Use of heated air to create lethal temperatures within infested wood serves as a nonchemical treatment option against western drywood termites, Incisitermes minor (Hagen). When treating a whole or large portion of the structure, however, the presence of hard-to-heat areas (structural heat sinks) and potential risk of damaging heat-sensitive items are recognized as important challenges. To address these challenges, we tested if the incorporation of a volatile essential oil would increase the overall efficacy of heat treatments against the drywood termites. To choose an essential oil for use, we tested the volatile action of several candidate compounds against individual termites using a fumigant toxicity assay. As a proof-of-concept experiment, field-collected termites were housed in small wooden arenas and subsequently subjected to 2-h heat treatment at various air temperatures within a gas chromatography oven. A simulated heat sink and essential oil treatment was also included in the experimental design. Analyses of lethal temperatures (LTemp50 and LTemp99 values), probabilities of mortality, and survivorship data over time suggested that 1) the presence of a heat sink significantly increased the minimum air temperature needed for complete kill of the termites and 2) the volatile essential oil added at the site of a heat sink effectively counteracted the impact of the heat sink. The use of volatile essential oils makes it possible to effectively kill drywood termites even in areas which might not reach lethal temperatures (∼50°C), potentially improving the overall efficacy of heat treatments while reducing the risk of heat damage.
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Vol. 113 • No. 3