Pest controllers make base safer place

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A swarm of wasps stormed around Airman 1st Class Elizabeth McCasland as she sprayed pesticide at their nest in the ground near a work shed here Aug. 15.

McCasland belongs to a small group of Airmen and civilians from the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Pest Management Flight charged with this goal: rid the base of pests to protect the people who live and work on base.

"We stay pretty busy the entire year," said Stefan Ehlenz, 52nd CES pest controller. "But in the summer, we deal with a lot of bug problems."

Some of these bug problems include pests like wasps, hornets, ants, cockroaches, silverfish and even bed bugs.

"Most people in base housing are afraid to call us because they're afraid they'll be regarded as dirty or messy," Ehlenz said. "Most of the houses we come across are very tidy but are just the unfortunate victim of an ant or cockroach infestation."

Bugs and rodents, especially when they invade the home or workplace, need to be taken care of quickly, McCasland said.

"Sometimes there is a deeper problem than just some crumbs on the floor that invite roaches or pests in a home," she added. "Re-occurring infestations can be an indicator of structural damage or large cracks in the foundation that provide plenty of room for rodents or bugs to get in."

During the summer, insects like wasps or hornets pose a particular threat to bystanders, especially if the person is allergic, Ehlenz said.

"Wasps will build their hive almost anywhere, including power boxes, house exteriors and grassy areas," he said. "We have to make sure we completely destroy the nest to ensure they don't return."

The main objective when dealing with wasps is that the queen must die, McCasland added.

"Without their queen, they can't survive," she said. "The stragglers that weren't killed by us will eventually go off and die, since they were loyal to their queen and can't join another hive."

The effective use of pest management techniques plays an important part in the overall health of base members.

"It's all about health issues," McCasland said. "Roaches cause asthma problems, wasps cause anaphylactic shock, rats bring more than a couple hazards to the table; in the end it comes down to the wellbeing of the people and we do what we can to keep the base safe."