Slippery paints upon which termites and other insects are unable to maintain their grip may help prevent insect damage in buildings, research in the Netherlands has found.

In a study performed for her PhD, Wageningen University student. Aurélie Féat examined various bio-coatings which can be applied to buildings and which make the surface slippery and cause small insects to slide off.

The coatings were tested on ants.

According to Jasper van der Gucht, a professor of Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter who worked with Feat on her research, previous research had revealed that insects are able to walk up walls by either by excreting a fluid that works like glue and enables them to stick to the surface or by using their claws to cling on.

In her studies, Feat experimented with different paints which would cause the surface to become slippery and prevent this from happening.

The most effective solution was a badly mixed paint.

Paint, van der Guacht explained, is a complex mixture of pigments, polymers and binders.

When mixed badly, pigment particles stick out from the surface, become stuck on the ant’s feet and cause the gluey fluid on their feet to stop working.

Another solution involved large particles, which caused the surface to become raw and led to the formation of pores which absorb the ant’s sticky fluid.

The research was supported by paint manufacturer Akzo Nobel, which is looking at alternatives to toxic insecticides to combat building damage which is caused by insects.

Whilst acknowledging that commercial application of potential products remains a distant prospect, Feat says benefits could be substantial.

As things stand, she says damage to buildings from termites and other insects amounts to between $US2 billion and $US40 billion per year.