Midges back at Bedok Reservoir

Kezia Toh Straits Times 4 Jan 12;

MIDGES are once again proving a nuisance at Bedok Reservoir - a year after they first 'bugged' residents there.

Since last week, residents and shopkeepers have once again had to swat away swarms of these tiny green and blue flies.

The insects, known scientifically as Chironomidae, do not bite or carry diseases but that is hardly a consolation for residents.

They told The Straits Times that the midges typically plague the vicinity in January and February, making daily activities inconvenient.

Mr Rahmat Ahmad, 59, an administrative executive who lives in a Housing Board block facing the reservoir, said: 'I have to run to my car, open the door and dash in very fast so the bugs don't get in.'

The problem usually lasts up to a month, but last year's infestation was more intense, said Mr George Yeo, then MP for the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward of Aljunied GRC.

The town council brought in pest-control contractors and the authorities traced the source of the infestation to the rocks and shrubs at the banks of the water catchment area.

The midges were breeding in the mud underneath the rocks, so the exterminators used a group of bacteria which produce toxins to kill the larvae.

Last February, it was reported that separate tests run by national water agency PUB and the National Environment Agency (NEA) revealed that the population of midge eggs and larvae in the area had fallen by 95 per cent.

But in the middle of last month, there were signs of midges making a comeback and fogging at Bedok Reservoir has been stepped up, a PUB spokesman said.

The agency has been monitoring the situation since last January's outbreak.

The water agency carried out a joint fogging operation with the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council last Thursday and Friday evenings, and will be doing so again today.

Meanwhile, businesses have come up with ways to fend off the insects. Coffee shops are giving diners saucers to cover their drinks, for example.

Still, business has dipped by about 20 per cent, said Ms Jennifer Tan, 47, an assistant at a coffee shop.

'People think that it is dirty with all the flies and don't dare to sit and eat... Hopefully, this will pass by Chinese New Year because there is usually more business then,' she said.

A clothing store has placed an incense burner at its door. The strong smell wafts into the shop and the store hopes this will keep the bugs out.

As store assistant Tan Chong Yoi, 49, said: 'The smell of incense is better than having customers see insects on clothes - would they still buy them?'

NEA said it will continue to work with PUB and the town council to control the midges at Bedok Reservoir.

Daily fogging to fight midges in Bedok
Kezia Toh Straits Times 5 Jan 12;

IT IS now pest controllers versus midges, with daily fogging and spraying to eliminate the swarms plaguing residents in Bedok Reservoir.

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council has deployed pest-control firms to 35 affected blocks in the estate after the insect nuisance surfaced last week. The problem also made headlines last year.

Fogging of common areas such as void decks, carparks and drains is done daily, as is the spraying of roofs and walls, to kill adult midges.

A spokesman for the town council, which has received more than 100 complaints about the tiny green and blue flies, hopes the problem can be solved by the end of next week.

The town council is also working with water agency PUB, the National Environment Agency and National Parks Board to fight the bugs.

Pest-control practitioners said efforts are needed to get to the root of the problem. Entomologist Erica Lim of Alliance Pest Management said: 'Fogging will kill the adult midges and lower their numbers, but not the larvae which are the root cause.'

Since spraying insecticide into the reservoir is a no-go, she suggests habitat modification such as the introduction of predators like dragonflies to feed on the larvae.

The recurrent infestation also signals the need for more proactive action, said Mr David Santhana of pest-management firm Gecko International.

'Since it happened in previous years, perhaps the authorities could activate pest-control companies in December before the infestation starts, to do intensified searches to look for breeding sites and eliminate them first,' he added.

Last year, the authorities traced the source of the insects - which do not bite or carry diseases - to rocks and shrubs at the banks of the water catchment area. The midges were breeding in mud beneath the rocks so exterminators used a group of bacteria which produced toxins to kill the larvae.

Residents said fogging is only a temporary solution.

'The situation becomes bearable for a while when they fog the place because it keeps the swarm of insects from coming into your eyes and ears,' said Mr Adam Lee, 33, an accountant.

'But the swarms come back after a few hours and the smell of the fogging lingers in my area, which might be harmful to health,' he added.

Coordinated effort against midges
Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: The battle against the nuisance of midges from Bedok Reservoir is shaping into a multi-agency exercise.

The town council, national water agency PUB, National Environment Agency and NParks are coordinating the work - to fog, track and control all breeding areas.

PUB has also commissioned a study with insect experts from the National University of Singapore to find long-term solutions to the sudden boom in the population of midges.

The university will work with entomologists from the National Environment Agency's Environmental Health Institute.

The midges have led to residents having to eat in semi-darkness to avoid their company.

Stallholders lament that business has been down by 40 to 50 per cent as fewer people want to eat out.

Luo Qi, a chef at Uncle Chia Western Food, said: "The coffeeshop has been turning off the lights to prevent the flies from coming, but they're still around; just that you don't see them so much. But with the lights turned off, customers don't come in as well because they think that this place is closed."

It is the second time midges have returned to bug residents. The first was in January 2011.

The Aljunied and Hougang Town Council said it has received more than 100 complaints since last week.

Sarah Tan, a Bedok Reservoir Road resident, said: "I jog regularly at Bedok Reservoir, but since this started two weeks ago, we've stopped going to jog at the reservoir. And we try to somehow sleep earlier because they're somehow attracted to lights - so we try not to have the lights on for too long at night.

"We try to eat as fast as we can when we get home because we don't want midges to attack our food. I've started to dump away water that has been boiled because the midges get into the tumblers."

Another resident, Mike Tan, said: "When we sit down at night to watch TV, or when we have a cup of drink, we have all these flies flying around. It's very irritating."

Residents can only try to get rid of them.

Ms Tan said: "We tried insecticide first - spraying insecticide, using Baygon and stuff like that - but that doesn't really work; they come back after we've sprayed, like 10 minutes later.

"Those that are on the ceiling, we try to vacuum, but then they come back again in 10 minutes' time. So I have no idea what else can be done to solve this."

Experts blame the weather for the midges' unwelcome presence.

Xander Chia, sales manager at The Pestman, said: "Midges infestation may be due to warm temperature, perhaps. Sometimes it's due to poor maintenance of drainage or of the pump area, which causes growth of algae and also stagnant water which is the best location for midges to breed."

Professor Rudolf Meier of the Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science at the National University of Singapore, said it could also be due to increased nutrients, like increased run-off from more developments in the area.

The increased nutrients contribute to more algae growth, increasing food supply for the midges to develop in large numbers. The larvae are mostly found on the interface between the water and rock embankment and on the algae attached to the rocks.

PUB says it has inspected the grounds around Bedok Reservoir, including the pump area.

It says it has started to remove the algae attached to the rocks and has used granular pellets to kill the larvae at these breeding areas. Fogging is also carried out on the reservoir grounds to kill the adult midges.

The town council says it has been working with various agencies, such as PUB, National Environment Agency and NParks to conduct coordinated fogging operations and monitor the area.

The town council is in charge of fogging the common areas and residual spraying of the roof and wall areas to kill and control adult midges, while PUB is in charge of fogging the reservoir, which is carried out twice a day.

However, experts say fogging may not be enough. Professor Meier says more needs to be done to address the ecological situation in the reservoirs to get rid of the pests.

- CNA/al