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American termites are causing increasing amounts of housing damage in Japan because they are more difficult to exterminate than their domestic counterparts, the Japan Termite Control Association has warned.

Unlike domestic species, such as the Japanese subterranean termite, which prefers damp environments and infests the lower areas of homes where they are easier to exterminate, American drywood termites survive longer in dry areas, tend to scatter throughout residences and can easily spread to neighboring areas.

The Tokyo-based association said American drywood termites originating from North America were first discovered in Tokyo in 1976 and appeared sporadically thereafter. But reports have been rising dramatically since 2000.

As of the end of 2008, reports about the American wood-eating bugs had been received from 24 of the 47 prefectures, including Miyagi and Yamagata in the Tohoku region, Ibaraki and Tokyo in Kanto, Gifu and Mie in Tokai, Kyoto and Hiroshima in Kansai, as well Fukuoka and Okinawa in the southwest.

Kazuya Minamiyama, a board member of the association who is involved in exterminating American drywood termites, said requests for help jumped sharply around 2005.

“They must have come through imported furniture and building materials,” Minamiyama said.

A 66-year-old housewife in Tokyo has found that getting rid of the invaders from her 20-year-old house is nearly impossible.

“We spent ¥8 million to renovate our house, but it was all in vain,” she said.

She first spotted the drywood termites around 2000. Despite hiring exterminators each and every year, the bugs would always turn up elsewhere in the house. So in 2007, she took the drastic step of replacing the outer walls to get rid of the bugs.

It didn’t work.

“We found them last year and this year again. I am going crazy,” she said.

Exterminators in the neighborhood said they have found American drywood termites in some 20 houses in the area.

Tsuyoshi Yoshimura of Kyoto University’s Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere said “administrative support” will be necessary to deal with drywood termites because a community effort is needed to exterminate them.

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