Alates of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, collected after swarming in 2002 died within 48 h, and the cadavers were visibly infected with a fungus. Fungi were picked from the cadavers, transferred to media, and ultimately isolated to purity. The individual fungal cultures were then used to infect Formosan subterranean termite workers. A single fungal isolate, C4-B, taxonomically identified as Metarhizium anisopliae (Metschnikoff), was found to cause rapid mortality of Formosan subterranean termite alates. This is the first report of a biological control agent for termite alates. In initial experiments, C4-B was more lethal to both alates and workers compared with M. anisopliae strain ESC 1, previously marketed as the termite biocontrol agent BioBlast. Dose–response assays in which Formosan subterranean termite alates were exposed to a known concentration of C4-B spores revealed that 106 spores/μl killed 100% of the alates in 3 d, both 105 and 104 spores/μl in 6 d, 103 spores/μl in 9 d, and 100 spores/μl in 12 d. Assays with workers demonstrated that 106 and 105 spores/μl killed 100% of the workers in 6 d. In an experiment to test the transfer of inoculum from infected workers to uninfected nestmates, 62.8% of the workers died in 21 d when only 20% of the workers had been inoculated. Mortality of alates caused by C4-B was tested at two field sites by dispersing fungal spores on grassy lawns and collecting alates from the treated areas. Alates thus infected showed 100% mortality by day 5, whereas only 64.8% of untreated control alates from the same collection area were dead on that day.
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Vol. 98 • No. 5