Bangkok (AFP) Aug 17, 2008
More than 100 of Southeast Asia's hardiest bugs measured up this week in Bangkok, where experts met to discuss new ways of controlling the pests, which they say are a major contributor to global warming.
On the sidelines of this year's Pest Summit, insects vied for the title of King Cockroach and Termite Queen, with the winning owners winning a 10,000 baht (300 dollar) prize.
The American Cockroach competition was won by a 4.2 centimetre (1.65 inch) specimen, giving him the title of King, with a 7.1 centimetre termite queen winning her division.
But the chairman of the August 13-15 summit said the competition itself was an important exercise in pest control, while other highlighted the bugs' role in climate change.
"Each cockroach produces 600 babies in their lifetime and we have more than 100 entrants, so our success to date is that we are reducing 60,000 cockroaches without using any chemicals at all and that's the beauty of it," Suchart Leelayuthyotin, director of the Thailand Pest Management Association, told AFP.
"The termite queen is like an egg-laying machine... So with every queen we get rid of 100,000 termites immediately," he added.
The winning cockroach was a city slicker, found a week earlier in Kuala Lumpur by female resident Yeap Beng Keok, while the termite was dug up in a Thai army camp in southern Khao Lak.
"We went out with the soldiers and a lot of them helped us because we know them," 20-year-old Chaiamon Chantarapitak from pest management team Union of Unicor Group told AFP.
"I didn't think we had a winner because a lot of people brought big ones and there were many almost as big as this one.
"The prize money is fine but we spent quite a lot of money to get it," Chaiamon added.
More than 600 insect killers and entymologists from Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand convened in a Bangkok hotel for the biannual event to share their knowledge of the latest killer chemicals and techniques. The industry is worth an estimated 3.5 billion dollars this year to Thailand alone.
But this year's summit brought with it a global message -- insects cause climate change.
Suchart said bugs are one of the main contributors to global warming because of the CO2 they emit when passing wind.
"Every termite will emit CO2 from their gut because when they consume the wood and digest it they get wind," Suchart explained.
"With every degree the global temperature rises, the life cycle of each bug will be shorter. The quicker the life cycle, the higher the population of pests," Suchart said.
If the fight against climate change seems impossibly huge, Suchart admitted the war on bugs is at least as hard.
"We know very well we'll not be about to win the war against insects. They have been here much longer than us. Cockroaches were here 350 million years ago," he said, adding that the problem was increasing.
"We used to live plain and simple -- a wall was a simple brick wall. But now we have decorated walls that insects hide behind," Suchart said, advising that the only way to fight bugs at home is through good sanitation and ventilation.
If Suchart's expertise on the insect world seems considerable, it was not always so.
He admitted his expert role came about more through accident than design.
"I am a professional bug killer by accident," he told AFP. "I applied for a job in the late 1960s and was given a choice between marketing and what my poor English thought was "press control". It turns out it was pest control, and here we are."
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