Detecting Termites from Afar

Bridges, homes, and other wooden structures in remote areas can require the time-consuming task of professionals physically traveling to and from the structures for periodic termite infestation inspections.

Convinced there had to be a better way, researchers from the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) investigated the use of remote sensing technologies to monitor the structural components of bridges and homes and transmit the findings to the internet cloud for interpretation. Early detection of termite activity could dramatically reduce the costs of remediation and repair.

Termites in a laboratory setting.

Researchers constructed stainless steel tanks to house termite colonies and commodity size dimension lumber members. The tanks were used to survey and test a variety of termite detection systems under laboratory conditions in order to evaluate their usefulness in remote locations in termite-prone areas.

Overall, results indicated that the simplest and cheapest independent  variables to measure and send were: temperature, relative humidity, dew point, and wood moisture content using off-the-shelf, commercially available sensor systems.

Above ground termite bait stations were determined to be the best method of housing the various sensors to permit ease of subsequent baiting if any termite activity was detected.

Researchers conclude that it is feasible and cost effective to remotely monitor valuable wooden structures, like historic covered bridges, against termite infestation and potential structural damage.

For more details on this study, see this report from the proceedings of the 2015 International Research Group Annual Meeting.