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Entomology: protectors from pests

Senior Airman Darwyn Case, a 19th Civil Engineer Squadron pest manager, displays a black widow spider Aug. 30, 2011, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Black widow spiders are among the most poisonous spiders in Arkansas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rusty Frank)

Senior Airman Darwyn Case, a 19th Civil Engineer Squadron pest manager, displays a black widow spider Aug. 30, 2011, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Black widow spiders are among the most poisonous spiders in Arkansas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rusty Frank)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Pests populate a large portion of Little Rock Air Force Base, but a small handful of Airmen bravely go to combat everyday to rid the industrial area of the base of unwanted critters. Setting traps, spraying sprays and manually retrieving rodents are all part of an entomologist's day.

The entomology team at Little Rock fights to keep the base's buildings rid of pest and ensure a safe environment. In addition, they also stress that all Airmen must do their part in decreasing pests appearances by maintaining good housekeeping inside the buildings on base.

"The entomology team provides services to 366 facilities and 700 acres of surface on the airfield for weeds," said Tech Sgt. Tiffany Johnson, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management NCO in charge. "We do surveys on all the buildings for insects, rodents and animals. Any buildings that have problems with pests, we treat them with live bait, spray and live traps. For rodents, we use blue boards or sticky traps, and they are disposed of."

The entomology team saves the integrity of the base, said Johnson. If mice or rats are in certain buildings chewing on the wire, the damage can accumulate into millions of dollars to repair. Termite damage repair can range from $50 to $70,000. In the dining facility, the team's job is to control vector-borne diseases. A vector-borne disease is an infectious disease, usually transmitted by insects from host to host. For example, ticks carry Lyme disease, mosquitoes carry malaria and roaches carry Escherichia coli (E. Coli), and Salmonella food poisoning that can be transmitted into the food in the dining facility.

Minor issues that are not a health hazard, such as ants being in buildings or a few roaches, are not one of the jobs that entomology handles, said Johnson. The shop has a self-help program where facility managers can obtain items like wasp freeze, ant granule, kill zone, which handles the ants, roaches and spiders; and bait stations for ants and roaches.

"Good housekeeping is a big part of what we try to educate the customers about. Cleaning cobwebs, throwing out trash that has food in it and not leaving food out overnight are all ways to prevent major pest problems," Johnson said. "We want pesticides to be our last resort. We don't want to automatically just come out and spray, that's why we do surveys first."
Johnson said that before she and her team treat a building, they do surveys to see the severity of the issue and also to find out if there are any pregnant women working there or anyone with any type of allergies.

On average, Johnson said, calls could range from five per week to 50, and as the weeks go by and seasons change, so does the variety of the calls.

"In the winter months, we get most call about rats and raccoons because they're trying to come in the building and get warm. In the summer time, the calls are mostly about bees, wasp and ants," Johnson said.

Johnson urges that customers give the treatment time to work. Bait treatment is good for 30 days and residual treatment is for 30 to 60 days.

Senior Airman Darwyn Case, a 19th CES a pest manager, is one of the entomology team members who handle pest issues. He said one of the most exciting jobs for him was breaking into the wall of a building on base and retrieving a baby raccoon.

Among raccoons, the teams have been tasked to catch turkey vouchers, cats, flying squirrels, hawks and geese.

Animals like raccoons that are caught, are taken off base, released and set free. For pest issues in the industrial area of the base, call 987-6553. Personal pets are not pests and entomology is not animal control. For pest or pet issues in base housing, call the 24-hour service of maintenance at 1-866-962-5778.
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