- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Who hates termites? Raise your hands.
Those dratted termites damage our homes, decks, furniture, fence posts and other wooden materials.
But at the 95th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 18, you’ll see termites “walk the line”--ala the Johnny Cash song--between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Briggs Hall.
(Too bad Cash didn't sing about termites "walking the plank." But then, termites wouldn't "walk the plank"--they'd eat it.)
Tara Thiemann, one of the graduate students in entomology coordinating the activity, will take a pen (Papermate or Bic ballpoint pen with blue ink),
take a pen (Papermate or Bic ballpoint pen with blue ink),draw a line on white paper, scoop up a termite, and place it on the paper.
The termite will walk the line.
Since termites are blind and cannot hear, they rely on smell to navigate. They navigate by following the scent of a pheromone, which is a chemical they secrete to send information to their buddies.
It so happens that a chemical in certain ink pens smells just like a pheromone, so they'll follow the trail.
Not all pens, however, are created equal in the pheromone category. Many contain no pheromone-like scent. And those that do certainly aren't labeled: "Attracts termites."
Lisa Reimer, a malaria mosquito scientist who received her doctorate in entomology last year from UC Davis, told us that it's too bad that we can't use the termite trail "technology" to draw termites out of our homes.
"Like draw a line right out the front door," she quipped.
"But," she added, "it doesn't work that way."