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June 11, 2012

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Termites are here but help lacking

The current humid and sultry weather has led to an outbreak of termites, while the city is confronted with a shortfall of termite workers.

The downtown area is particularly vulnerable as it has many more wood houses than the suburbs, and the increase of greenery is conducive to termites reproducing, said Yin Haisheng, an expert with the Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Museum affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A resident surnamed Sun, who lives on Guangxin Road in Putuo District, saw bugs flying in her bathroom. She mistook them for moths and didn't pay close attention. When she realized it was an invasion of termites, the windowsill of her apartment was filled with the insects and some had entered the house. Even if her husband used pesticide to kill all of them, she said she was "so scared."

"I fear they will build nests in my home," she said.

Some residents said they don't dare open their windows, despite the heat.

Experts said light attracts termites. The current outbreak is mainly male termites flying around in search of females, and they mate in humid and quiet places with wood. Termites are most active between April and August.

Yin said an average of five to six out of every 100 households in Shanghai are suffering from termite problems, compared with two per 100 in the past.

"The figure is alarming and the situation will be more severe if measures are not taken," he said.

But the number of professional termite workers is dropping. Most are over 40 and some will retire soon, with no heirs.

A campaign to kill termites across China in the 1970s and 1980s left them almost extinct about 10 years ago, but the efforts waned, said a staff worker surnamed Ji with the Nanfang Termite Control Service Center in Huangpu District.

The center has two exterminators who specialize on termites, but currently all workers (seven or eight), some with basic skills, are dispatched to kill termites because the center receives more than 10 cases of termite invasion every day, he said.

A 57-year-old termite professional surnamed Liang said his company in Jing'an District had over 10 workers when he entered, but is half that now.

Some firms handling termites charge 1,000 yuan (US$160) to 2,500 yuan for a single service.

How to prevent or deal with an invasion

Termites prefer humid, warm and quiet places, and the best way to avoid an invasion is to keep windows closed, experts said.

Barrier strips can be paved on the cracks of doors and walls, and wood and package boxes brought outside should be checked closely. Precautions like spraying liquid medicine on furniture can be made during decoration.

Papers can be used to kill termites, while pesticide is not suggested. People should not move or destroy termite nests themselves, but instead should ask professional agencies for help.


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