Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Tiny mosquitoes terrorizing Taiwan

NUISANCE The insect, also known as ``little King Kong,'' leaves people with almost unendurable itching and red, swollen spots, but the EPA has plans to eliminate it

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A small black mosquito has become a serious environmental problem in Taiwan, officials said yesterday.

Mosquito control programs in 11 counties will receive further subsidies from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in an attempt to stamp out the annoying little mosquito this winter.

The mosquito, forcipomyia taiwana, and similar species are quite common in Taiwan and southern China.

Although it does not carry diseases, its bite leaves people with red, swollen spots, which are almost too itchy to endure.

Last year, the EPA began subsidizing 11 rural counties to tackle the small black mosquito by spraying pesticides and helping residents to clean up their environment. The mosquito-prevention program will be further enhanced between next month and next March in an attempt to eliminate the larvae. The mosquitoes breed during winter and early spring.

According to Ho Soon-ching (何舜琴), director-general of the Bureau of Environmental Sanitation and Toxic Chemicals Control, keeping the environment clean remains a key to combating the insects.

"Spraying pesticides is only part of the solution. The only effective way of getting rid of this mosquito is removal of the breeding sites," Ho said at a press conference yesterday.

Forcipomyia taiwana has long been known by names such as "small black mosquito" and "little King Kong." The size of the mosquito, which has dark and hairy wings, is about 1.4mm, or one-third the size of a sesame seed.

Humid places, such as the soil in tea gardens, vegetable farms and bamboo forests, are ideal breeding sites for the mosquito. The mosquito is most active during the middle of the day, rather than at night.

Japanese scientists first discovered the species in Taichung County in 1913. Ecological research on the mosquito was not carried out until two decades ago.

Due to recent human development in remote areas, betel nut plantations now provide the mosquito with ideal breeding sites, EPA officials said. It is now annoying residents of Taichung, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Nantou, Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan, Pintung and Hualien Counties.

Ho said that local environmental bureaus would help with clean-ups in towns as well as rivers. The EPA will also distribute peppermint oil and other remedies to residents.

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