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VALE BRENTON PETERS (1948-2019)

A tribute to Brenton Peters, who made significant contributions to the pest industry, particularly in the area of termite management.

Dr Brenton Peters made a difference to the way we manage termites. He passed away on January 17, 2019. All of us in termite management owe him.

He, with others, plotted the pathway to new methods of control after the cyclodienes were finally removed from our vans and trucks in 1995. The 50 years of their use began right after WWll. Most pest managers completely relied on them for treatment and for chemical barrier protection of their customers’ buildings. Using arsenic trioxide dust was relegated to a few ‘old timers’ and physical barriers were, for a lot of the era, represented only by galvanised ant caps.

In the very late 1990s an entirely new method was introduced: the aggregation of termites into stations or monitors where a termite bait or toxicant could be added for workers to carry back to the colony. Brenton and other research scientists were involved in testing these baits and the whole aggregation/baiting technique before the application for APVMA registration. New barrier chemicals, insecticidal dusts, foams and timber preservatives became available and many were tested by Brenton for efficacy.

In 2000, Brenton Peters and Chris Fitzgerald presented the paper ‘Developments in Termite Management: Life After Cyclodienes’ at the AEPMA/FAOPMA conference in Australia. This document pulled together the use of physical and chemical barriers, aggregation and baiting. It became the base on which State Building Acts, BCA Compliance, AS 3660.1 and local government built their Codes and Standards.

This all happened just under 20 years ago; Brenton was a major facilitator of the change. He and his many co-authors did the research and the testing that has made termite management not only safer but more reliably effective. He was still publishing about new frontiers – microencapsulation and nanotechnology – right up until the month before his passing.

Perhaps his ‘fame’ is most associated with sheet fumigations to eliminate Cryptotermes brevis, the West Indian drywood termite, imported into Australia by the US Army under General Douglas Macarthur in 1942-43. After 37 years, in 1979, the Queensland Government decided to fumigate every building found harbouring this pest. The biggest show was wrapping Brisbane’s Parliament House with Rentokil’s red and white sheets (the biggest KFC store in the world!) and circulating over four tonnes of deadly methyl bromide gas inside… in the middle of the city! TV and the rest of the media had a field day. Brenton was constantly at the interface ensuring the contracting pest manager did it all by the book. They did.

Someone suggested the victories over Cryptotermes brevis should be Brenton’s abiding legacy. Maybe, but throughout most of his 40-year professional life he designed and conducted research involving the tedium of the essential science pathways of hypothesis, method, replications, results and discussion while never becoming bored or boring.

His wit and warmth were always evident not only to his colleagues and family but to everyone he met, even briefly. We are thankful for his contribution to our industry which is passed forward through us to our customers. A top bloke who will be truly missed.

Ion Staunton