Science Project Details:

Using natural pesticides to control termites

Difficulty: Intermediate 5
Cost ($): 10
Time required:
1 day to prepare, 1 hour for observation
Availability of materials:
Easily found
Safety concerns:

The termites used in the experiment should be destroyed and disposed of.  An adult is required to help handle the termites, and the acid.

Abstract

This science fair project was conducted to determine the effectiveness of using natural pesticides to control termites. The science fair project was carried out using boric acid, lemon juice, tomato juice and vinegar.

Hypothesis

Boric acid and vinegar will keep the termites away.

Background

Natural pesticides

Pesticides are used in homes, gardens and farms to kill or deter pests and insects. Insects and pests need to be kept away because they cause diseases and cause damage to property. Some pests like the cockroach  are also very unhygienic.
Household pesticides are usually made of chemicals that are harmful to our health,   especially to children. When a spray-can of insecticide is emptied,  the fumes and chemicals spread everywhere and are inhaled. Farmers also used pesticides to protect their crops and increase yield. However, these pesticides seep into the soil, contaminate ground water and hence,  adversely affect the food chain.

Natural pesticides are products made of only naturally occuring substances. They do not contain any chemicals in them and are not harmful to our health or the environment. Examples of natural pesticides are lemon juice, cucumber peel and bay leaves which help to keep ants away. Research indicates that tTermites and cockroaches may be kept away with borax (or boric acid). Honey is very useful in attracting flies and used as fly traps. This experiment will help us ascertain whether termites are indeed repelled by borax and vinegar (acetic acid).
 

Scientific Terms

Natural pesticides, chemical, contaminate, ground water

Materials

The materials required for this science fair project:

-    1 empty bottle
-    20 termites. You might be able to find termite nests in old, rotting tree stumps or pieces of wood in your garden. Have an adult help gather the termites.
-    A pair of latex gloves
-    1 lemon
-    1 bottle of borax acid (usually found in the cleaning aisle of your grocery store, near the powdered laundry soaps. A common brand is 20 Mule Team)
-    1 tomato
-    1 bottle of vinegar
-    1 bottle of distilled water
-    8 plastic cups
-    4 plastic spoons
-    1 juice extractor
-    4 small brushes
-    1 black marker

Procedure

1.    For this science fair project, the independent variable is the type of solution used – lemon juice, borax, tomato juice and vinegar. The dependent variable is the movement of the termites in and out of the circle. This is determined by observing if the termites crawl out of the circle lined with natural pesticides. The constants (control variables) are the type of termites used, the size of the circle (see below), the concentration of the solution and the width of the line.

2.    Place the 20 termites in the empty bottle. Gloves should be worn when handling the termites to avoid getting bitten.

3.    Using a juice extractor, Prepare the lemon and tomato juice. The juices are poured into 2 separate plastic cups. Some borax and vinegar are poured into another  2 plastic cups. All 4 cups are labeled accordingly. Then, with the remaining 4 empty cups, fill them halfway with distilled water. Next, top up each of these half-full cups with each of the borax/vinegar, lemon juice and tomato juice. Stir thoroughly with a clean spoon.

4.    A small brush is dipped into the cup of lemon juice. The lemon juice laden brush is then used to draw a circle on the floor. The diameter of the circle should be more the 300mm. 5 termites are placed inside the circle.

5.    The termites are observed for the next 10 minutes. If the termites crawl out of the circle, an “X” in placed in the respective row in the table below. However, if the termites do not crawl out of the circle, a “Y “ is placed in the respective row in the table below.

6.    Procedures 4 and 5 are repeated with the other 3 substances, i.e. boric acid, tomato juice and vinegar.
 

Observation

It is observed that borax was effective at keeping the termites within the circle. Lemon juice, tomato juice and vinegar were not effective in keeping the termites within the circle.

Natural pesticide Borax acid Lemon juice Tomato juice Vinegar
Result Y X X X

Y - able to keep the termites within the circle
X – not able to keep the termites within the circle

Conclusion

The hypothesis that boric acid and vinegar will be able to keep termites away,  is partially  correct. Only the boric acid (borax) was effective in keeping the termites contained within the circle.

Natural pesticides are made with substances that are derived from fruits, vegetables, plants or naturally occurring minerals. Natural pesticides may not be as long-lasting as chemical pesticides and they are also more expensive. However, they are safer to use and are less harmful to our environment.

 

Also consider

What would happen if the science fair project was repeated using different types of insects - eg. cockroaches or red ants?

The experiment can also be done using different types of natural substances like saltwater, garlic oil or tea.

Would increasing or decreasing the concentration of the acid solutions make a difference to your results?
 

References

Natural pesticide alternatives - http://www.essortment.com/all/pesticidesalter_rfhc.htm

Natural pesticides - http://www.livingwithbugs.com/natural_pesticides.html

How to kill ant with natural pesticides - http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/685561/how_to_kill_ants_with_natural_pesticides_pg2.html?cat=32
 

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