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Zheng Qiyang squats and carefully digs up a red cylindrical item with small holes. He opens it to show a host of dead termites and a piece of half-eaten, poisonous wood.
Zheng Qiyang, an acclaimed termite exterminator, examines a device he has invented to attract and kill termites at his home in Dangyang, Hubei province, on Tuesday. Provided to China Daily
"Tracking termite nests is like a doctor diagnosing a patient. It's very complicated," said Zheng, who followed his father and grandfather's footsteps in hunting the little, white insects.
This particular termite trap, which can be buried underground and kills termites within several weeks, has made Zheng famous as it is effective and environmentally friendly.
In his father's generation, killing termites meant locating the nest and digging it up, which had many limitations.
Then, there is a new and common method - evacuating people from the building and spraying pesticide in the house or along the walls. But Zheng frowns upon the method because it not only pollutes the environment, but also harms human health.
"And it's not so effective because most termites can still fly back into the building," said Zheng, 59, from Dangyang, Hubei province.
He started to research an efficient and eco-friendly way to kill termites in 1993 and came up with the termite trap, which he has been modifying ever since for effectiveness and feasibility.
The current version is a piece of wood soaked with pesticide put inside a cylinder with holes. Once it's buried where termites frequent, they will be lured through the holes to eat the poisoned wood. Some die inside immediately and others take the poisoned food back to the nest and feed the other termites, possibly killing the queen termite and destroying the whole nest.
He also designs small and simple traps that can be buried in grassland, hung on a tree or embedded into a wall.
"I'm interested in learning about termites. I find them very mysterious," said Zheng.
When the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) started, Zheng, then 14, followed his father to nearby villages to kill termites, since classes were suspended. He shouldered a 70-centimeter steel drill, and watched how his father used it to dig up termite nests.
Sometimes his father asked him to do it on his own. His first task was quite successful and won praise from local villagers.
Zheng was proud and encouraged, and decided to learn more about termites.
When he was in senior middle school, the school helped him establish a simple research room, so that he could do experiments on termites.
His teachers also bought him books about termites.
Since then, Zheng has gradually built his name as an exterminator and now manages a company that makes an annual profit of more than 800,000 yuan ($126,000).
"It's impossible to eliminate termites. We can only control them," he said.
While Zheng's business used to focus on the countryside, he travels more often to cities now.
"In the past, there were more termites in the countryside than in the cities, but now it's opposite because termites are attracted to lights in the cities," said the termite expert.
He is now planning to unveil a fourth generation termite trap soon, which can be mass-produced so that more people can use it.
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