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Using natural pesticides to control termitesFeatured science projectScience project video


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


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.

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
1 day to prepare, 1 hour for observation
Material availability:
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.