Isolation and Characterization of an Aspergillus Species Found to Be Pathogenic to Incisitermes minor Drywood Termites

D. C. Ojala, R. Graham-Howard, C. Scarth, E. Woertz, S. M. Richart


Termites can cause up to $1 billion in damage in the course of a single year in the United States. Growing environmental concerns with the effects of industrially-produced chemical pesticides have made it desirable to develop a natural, specific method of termite control that does minimal ecological damage and may be transferred from termite to termite. In 2009, an entire colony of Incisitermes minor termites died of a fungal infection at Azusa Pacific University. The isolated fungus was tested in vitro on several different insects: I. minor, crickets, mealworms, and fruit flies, but was only observed to be specifically entomopathogenic to I. minor termites. Median lethal time (LT50) and dose response studies were conducted with I. minor. Sequencing data suggested that our fungal isolate was a species of Aspergillus, and a strain of the same putative fungus was purchased from ATCC which we showed was morphologically similar to and exhibited near identical killing curves to our isolate. Finally, it was also observed that termites that were infected with our fungal isolate were able to transmit fungal disease to uninfected termites when they were placed in the same Petri dishes. Further experimentation to determine whether this fungus controls termites in their natural habitat is in progress. To our knowledge, this species of Aspergillus is a novel fungal pathogen to I. minor termites and may be a promising candidate for a termite control agent.

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American Society for Microbiology General Meeting
    • ASM 112th (2012)