Extracts of the rosary pea, Abrus precatorius, are toxic to the invasive termite, Coptotermes gestroi
In 2009 an outbreak of the termite Coptotermes gestroi caused major damage to buildings and vegetation in Fiji. Termite control is most commonly performed using synthetic insecticides, although many botanically-derived toxins are also being evaluated. The woody legume, Abrus precatorius, contains the toxic protein abrin, and has been investigated previously for insecticidal properties. The current study used laboratory experiments to evaluate extracts of A. precatorius as potential control agents for C. gestroi. In Petri dish assays, exposure to water- and methanol-based extracts of leaf and seed material significantly increased mortality and shortened time to death of C. gestroi. The results suggest that extracts of A. precatorius have potential for use as control agents of C. gestroi and should be evaluated further to determine their mode of action and efficacy under field conditions.