Research by LSU Agricultural Center scientists may someday provide a chemical-free way of controlling termites and other insects.

The scientists hide microbes, modified to produce toxins, in a yeast-and-cellulose powder bait that termites love to eat, according to entomologist Claudia Husseneder.

Termites are social insects, feeding and grooming each other, so they quickly spread the bait, Husseneder said in a news release.

The bait kills the protozoa inside termites’ guts that help them digest wood, Husseneder said, and without the protozoa, the termites starve.

In their natural state, the microbes are not a threat to termites, which don’t recognize Trojan Horse microbes as a problem either, Husseneder said.

“What we do is genetically engineer microbes so they express toxins and spread them throughout the colony — just like the Greek soldiers into Troy — to destroy the city from within,” she said.

The next step in this research is to secure funding so the efficacy of the bait product can be tested in a greenhouse, Husseneder said.

“It has to go through further testing and the permitting stage before it will be ready for commercial use. This could take three years or more,” she said.