Fighting pests a year-round job on Okinawa
Stars and Stripes May 1, 2008
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Ants, roaches, termites, rodents, spiders, snakes and other creepy crawlies abound on Okinawa.
And these critters are not shy about infesting human habitations.
But if residents of the 8,200-plus homes at military bases on the island have a problem with these pests, they can call the “bug people” at Kadena Air Base’s Entomology Office.
The six airmen and 19 Japanese nationals at the office get hundreds of calls a week, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Reinhard Valleau, a pest control management technician and noncommissioned officer in charge.
Most bug people enjoy their job because it gets them out of the office and each day brings a different challenge, he said.
For Airman Feleen Wall, working with bugs was actually her top pick for a military job.
“Since the sixth grade I wanted to study forensic entomology but I was also interested in the military,” Wall said. “I like bugs. I like learning about them, and killing them just happens to be part of the job.”
There is no shortage of them for her to kill.
Pests here tend to be seasonal, though ant and roach infestations are a year-round complaint, Valleau said.
One hard-to-control insect is the white-footed ant, Valleau said. Once it establishes a foothold somewhere, it reproduces more quickly than other ant species, he said.
The pharaoh ant also is common. Colonies can live inside wall voids, under floorboards, in trash cans and in other household areas, according to the Ohio State University entomology Web site. They are hard to control because of the ease with which a colony disperses to new locations.
Roach species on Okinawa include the American, German and Asian roaches, though the American and German roaches are most often seen in housing areas, Valleau said.
American roaches are large and live outdoors, but enter homes through drains and pipes in search of food, he said. German roaches are very small but are more of a pest because they will stay in homes.
“In the spring, I would have to say it is mostly ants and roaches,” he said, adding that termites also are starting to come out.
Okinawa has two main types of termites: subterranean, which are more abundant; and Formosan, which are most destructive.
Subterranean termites live underground, tunnel up, get wood and return to their underground nest but Formosan termites will build nests in walls and eat wood very fast, he said.
The Entomology Office often get calls because people see swarms of flying termites, Valleau said. But that is just part of their reproductive cycle and is harmless, he said. But people should still call the Entomology Office so they know there is an infestation in the area.
Summer is more ant and roach season, but it’s also when “mosquitoes start to come up real bad,” he said. Workers with the Entemology Office start spraying housing areas for mosquitoes when they start breeding in spring.
In the fall, rats and mice become more prevalent, as do shrews, which Valleau describes as “cute and cuddly until they start biting and digging holes in your yard.”
In winter, its mainly ants and roaches that require dealing with.
“Here in the subtropics, you’re going to see a roach or two, an ant or two,” Valleau said. “But if you feel you’re seeing an abnormal number of pests, you should call us.”
Simple steps to control what bugs youThe residents in Okinawa military housing areas can do a lot to control pests, say the bug people at Kadena’s Entomology Office.
As summer approaches, mosquitoes will be joining the party, said Staff Sgt. Reinhard Valleau.
“Mosquitoes breed in water,” he said. “A lot of the mosquito types here can breed in artificial containers” like toys, wading pools, cans, pans or anything else that has standing water in it for a period of time.
To stop this, Valleau advises people to periodically go through yards and around the house and empty any containers that hold water.
“The average mosquito larvae hatch in about 10 days and they will hatch in any little bit of water,” he said. “A square foot of water can breed hundreds of mosquitoes.”
Although screens on all windows and doors will keep out mosquitoes, Valleau also suggests residents trim bushes around the house because they provide resting areas.
The same prevention applies to ants and roaches, he said. Make sure the seals on your doors and windows are good. Also seal food securely and clean up immediately. Rinse cans and bottles before placing them in recycle bins as insects are attracted to the residue liquid.
“Your house doesn’t have to be dirty,” Valleau warned. “Even just a few crumbs can attract” ants or roaches.
For more information or to report a bug problem, call the Entomology Office at DSN 634-1961 or DSN 634-0882.