Axis of weevil: Christmas trees for AAFES stores destroyed due to insects
December 3, 2003
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — They call it the strawberry root weevil in the States, but on Okinawa it’s the “humbug” — and it might leave U.S. servicemembers decorating artificial Christmas trees this year.
The weevil, a small insect that feeds on strawberry plants, earned its new name after Japan’s government ordered disposal of 1,000 Christmas trees intended for sale at Army and Air Force Exchange Service locations.
A replacement shipment of natural trees wouldn’t arrive in time, an AAFES spokesman said, but the Okinawa stores should have enough artificial trees on hand to meet demand.
An inspection revealed the infestation, Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Glenn, an AAFES spokeswoman, said Monday.
Three containers of trees arrived Nov. 14 in Naha Port from an AAFES vendor in the United States, Glenn said. Arrangements then were made to have the trees inspected.
“Unfortunately, the sampling of 1,000 Christmas trees in three containers shipped from Washington state on Nov. 17 discovered highly harmful insects,” said Mitsugu Suzuki of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
“Among the different kinds of bugs found in the tree shipment were adult strawberry root weevils, an insect listed as the second most dangerous of the four grades of harmful insects,” said Suzuki, chief inspector at Naha’s plant quarantine office.
“Every year, we inspect Christmas trees shipped to Okinawa from the United States and for the past several years we had not found any harmful insects,” he said, adding that infested Christmas trees last were found in an AAFES shipment in 1995.
This year, he said, “we proposed two options to the military, either to destroy them or ship them back.”
AAFES chose to destroy the trees and was given a deadline of Monday. “We spent two days last week incinerating them,” Glenn said.
AAFES storage and distribution manager Robert Klugh Jr. said the U.S. Department of Agriculture cleared the trees. When shipped, they were free of insects on Japan’s prohibited list, an AAFES news release stated.
The trees were to be priced between $30 and $70. Glenn said officials are considering whether to try to hold the vendor accountable, but the USDA clearance might make that impossible. She said she did not have the vendor’s name Monday.
With Christmas just three weeks away, Glenn said, there is too little time to ship more trees.
However, she said, AAFES should have enough artificial trees in stock to meet demand and easily can get more from other regional stores if needed. An informal survey this week of AAFES Okinawa stores showed artificial trees priced from $4.95 to $139. Live trees generally are not available off-base on Okinawa.
So far, Okinawa’s shipment is the only infested delivery, Glenn said. Other exchanges throughout the Pacific already have began selling trees.
A customer service representative at the Navy Exchange at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, said this year’s supply of live Christmas trees arrived Monday and would be on sale by Wednesday at Four Seasons.
About 300 miles northeast, at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, live Christmas trees already are on sale, Marine Corps Community Services spokeswoman Jamie Wurdinger said Monday morning.
And at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Boy Scouts received 276 trees, including Douglas and Noble firs. The trees went on sale Friday on the roof of Yokota Community Center.
Greg Tyler and Roger Harnack contributed to this report.