Benefits of Perceived Negatives LO16577 -Opportuni-Tease # 5

Walter Derzko (
Fri, 16 Jan 1998 09:00:45 -0800

Opportuni-Tease # 5 - Concept Transfer & Benefits of Perceived Negatives

Opportuni-Tease is a new weekly posting to stimulate your creative &
opportunity thinking. I have a list of recent breakthrough technologies,
science concepts and discoveries that are still in the research, pilot or
lab stages. Discoveries have been selected because they have the potential
to "shock" and radically alter your life, career, job or business.

This week's Opportuni-Tease:
Number #5 Termite Research-Examples of Concept Transfer & Benefits
of Perceived Negatives

The press release below highlights the importance of actively looking for
opportunities. Scientists found that CO2 gas attracts rootworms-a corn
pest and that this could be used as an effective natural pest control.
Most people would have stopped thinking beyond this point. An
opportunity-sensitive thinker would still ask themselves... where else
might this concept work? [an example of concept transfer]

Researches may not have stumbled on to this theory had they not also asked
themselves: What are the benefits of CO2 ?-normally viewed by most people
in "negative" terms. [an example of exploring for benefits behind
perceived negatives] In this case a pest attractant and a natural pest
control strategy.

1) Can you think of recent examples where you successfully applied
"concept transfer" and discovered a new opportunity space ? reply-

2) Can you think of recent examples where you successfully surfaced "the
benefits of a perceived negative" and discovered a new opportunity space ?

Your name-
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Please reply using the above headings only. Do not change the Subject line
when replying.

Please reply to the news group or list and share your ideas about impacts,
but copy me at: if you want to be credited with
anticipating the impact(s) and to be archived in my new web page (under

Walter Derzko
Director Idea Lab

Termites' Attraction To Small Amounts of Carbon Dioxide Lures Pests To
Their Deaths

FORT COLLINS-- A Colorado State University scientist's discovery may
lead to a safer and cheaper way to prevent termites from infesting homes,
where they cause an estimated $750 million in damage in the United States

Entomologist Louis Bjostad found that termites' natural reliance on
carbon dioxide to find food and shelter can also be used against the
insects as a non-toxic alternative to current forms of pest control.

"When we first initiated the experiments, we wondered if the concept
would be too simple to work," Bjostad said. "Our findings show that carbon
dioxide undoubtedly attracts termites, which opens up a whole range of
possibilities for controlling these pests."

Bjostad, with researchers Elisa Bernklau and Erich Fromm, made the
discovery by placing two species of termites--Reticulitermes tibialis, a
species common to Colorado, and R. flavipes, a frequent pest in the Great
Lakes--at one end of a T-shaped tube. In one arm, researchers pumped in
normal air, and in the other, CO2 in concentrations higher than those in
normal soil.

"When a termite came to the point of choosing an arm, it moved its
antennae to one side of the tube, then the other," Bjostad said of the
experiments. "Most of them chose the side containing the carbon dioxide."

Bjostad and his colleagues believe termites are naturally attracted
to carbon dioxide for two reasons. Rotting wood--the termites' main source
of food--releases CO2, a process that likely guides the insects to food.
Concentrations of the gas inside termite colonies is higher than ambient
air, suggesting termites also use CO2 to find home.

Now Bjostad and his colleagues are using the discovery to create a
substance that slowly releases CO2 underground to lure termites away from
houses and other structures where they cause damage. Because it occurs in
abundance naturally, CO2 offers an inexpensive, non-toxic alternative to
current methods of pest control, Bjostad said. Environmentally-friendly
insecticides now in use are designed to pass from one termite to the
other, but don't always do the job. As a result, pest controllers often
resort to other toxic chemicals to eradicate termites.

Chemical companies have expressed interest in the finding, Bjostad
said, in part because of the high costs to register new insecticides and
chemicals. In-depth efficacy and public health studies and other
research--costing an average of $50 million--must be submitted to federal
agencies before a chemical company can manufacture and sell a product.
Because CO2 is a natural gas, those costly studies would not be necessary,
Bjostad points out.

Bjostad believes the CO2 discovery opens the door for a number of
uses, such as luring termites to monitoring traps or to sources of
insecticides. Slow releases of CO2 could also be used to confuse termite
behavior to the point where a colony cannot sustain itself. The
breakthrough even may have applications in new home construction.

Bjostad's lab plans to conduct experiments with other termite species
common to the United States to determine what range of COs is effective on
all species. Because the basic biology of other termite species is very
similar, the Colorado State researchers expect little difference in their
reactions. The initial termite studies were funded by the Colorado
Agricultural Experiment Station.

This latest breakthrough was prompted by other research under way in
Bjostad's lab. Last year, the Colorado State team showed that western corn
rootworm--a pest that causes $1 billion in crop damage each year--solely
uses CO2 to find young corn roots. Larvae must locate roots within three
days after hatching or die of starvation. Bjostad developed several
pellets containing natural ingredients that slowly release the gas. The
pellets, buried at corn planting time, steer rootworm larvae off-course.

Bjostad's recent discoveries with termites and rootworm points to the
possibility that many soil-borne insects also rely on CO2 to locate food
and shelter. If so, the gas could be used to steer other agricultural and
household pests away from places they do harm.

"Manmade insecticides assume the pests will come into contact with
the chemical and die," Bjostad said. "This is a case where we're using the
pests' own genetic predispositions to elements that already exist in
nature to change their behavior or lure them to their deaths."

15 JANUARY 1998 AT 06:00:00 ET US

Contact: Louis Bjostad
(970) 491-5987
Colorado State University


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