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November 24, 2011

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Termites damage city gardens

TERMITES have become a major threat to Shanghai's limited number of historic gardens, officials said yesterday.

Two of the five historic gardens in the city are facing serious termite problems especially on their historic structures and trees, and the problem is difficult to solve for either lack of money or technique to protect the buildings and trees while killing the insects.

Officials at the 900-year-old Zuibaichi Garden in Songjiang District, the city's oldest garden, recently had to change the original wooden floor in a historic building, which had been eaten hollow by termites, into brick floors, said Zhai Rongjun, deputy director of the garden.

Three decayed pillars and a beam of the building leaning toward a lotus pond called Yi Fang have also been replaced, Zhai said.

"We feel regretful about changing any part of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) buildings that have been preserved well through the centuries but were damaged by termites in recent years," said Xu Gang, an official with the garden. "But after the floors were decayed, people can even stamp holes when walking on the floor."

Xu said the source of the infestation - called a formicary - has yet to be located because normal ways to trace the termite, including to break the wall and remove the floor, would damage the historic buildings.

"We hope some seminars can be held among experts and garden officials to find some solutions to solve the termite problem especially for historic gardens, as most of us are facing the problem," he added.

Five privet trees, each over 100 years old, have been eaten hollow by termites in Qushuiyuan Garden, another city historic garden in Qingpu District, said Wang Huizhong, garden spokesman.

Termite companies have sprayed pesticide on the trees but this has only managed to stall their decay, Wang said.

"It will cost more than 3,000 yuan (US$472) to terminate the termites for each tree, and that is unaffordable for the garden," he said.

Historic gardens are always hotbeds for termites because the traditional Chinese gardens are usually built in low areas with a warm and wet atmosphere, said Zhai.

Shanghai boasts five historic gardens. The others are Yuyuan Garden in Huangpu District and Guyiyuan and Qiuxiapu gardens in Jiading District.

Outside Shanghai, the Humble Administrator's Garden in neighboring Suzhou, famed for its historic gardens, has also found termites in some of its wooden pavilions.


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