The History Of Termites In The Panama Canal
As the rate of global trade intensified during the 1800s, large shipping vessels became more and more of a necessity. However, the isthmus that connects North and South America used to slow the rate of global trade significantly. In order to access the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean, ships were forced to steer around the entire continent of South America. In order for ships to access the Atlantic from the Pacific more quickly and easily, an artificial lake was constructed. This artificial lake allowed ships to pass through the narrow Central American isthmus through Panama. This convenient manmade waterbody became known as the Panama Canal. Unfortunately, this area is also a termite hotspot.
The Panama Canal is one of the most monumental and ambitious of all construction projects ever undertaken by mankind. Unfortunately, native termites in Panama occasionally threw a wrench into the construction process. After the canal was finished, several of the canal’s offices and various structures were damaged by termites. Even nearby military bases suffered devastating termite damages. Experts soon realized that Panama contained an extremely high amount of termite species, even for a tropical country. The termite diversity prompted entomologists to carry out numerous termite-related studies in the country. The location and the many different termite species available for study made Panama an ideal region for carrying out termite studies.
When the Panama Canal was completed in the early 1900s, the heavy construction in the region led to the formation of a coastal island. This Panamanian island is now known as Barro Colorado Island. Starting in 1943, researchers began testing certain chemicals on termites in an effort to identify compounds that are toxic to termites. These experiments led to many future termite control methods. For example, the now infamous insecticide known as DDT was first developed in Panama. The science involved with soil treatments was thoroughly explored on the island as subterranean termites were the primary test subjects available. Although no modern insecticides were developed at the site of the Canal, the Panamanian testing grounds allowed researchers to gain a tremendous amount of insight into termite behavior and how termite control measures should be conducted.
Would you be interested in reading any of the old termite studies that took place at or near the Panama Canal following its construction?