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NEWS | April 9, 2013

Pests can run, but they can't hide from the Langley Entomology team

By Senior Airman Brittany Paerschke-O'Brien 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

An open soda can. A half-eaten donut. A trash can cradling yesterday's sandwich. All seem innocent enough; until you notice the procession of ants marching across your desk.

Luckily for Langley, the Entomology team helps keep pests at bay through their abundant knowledge of pest management techniques.

Staff Sgt. Zachariah Bingham, 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron pest control specialist, said Service members can take a few simple sanitation steps to help prevent pests.

"Not eating at your desk and taking out the trash are small tasks that could prevent vermin," said Bingham. "These steps are referred to as intergraded pest management approaches, and should be performed before calling Entomology for assistance."

Sanitation issues regarding ants alone contribute to 20 to 30 calls a month to pest control. Ants are not the only insect found due to sanitation issues. Roaches also can be a common result of poor sanitation, said Airman 1st Class Kelly Berger, 633rd CES pest control specialist. Although Entomology stress sanitation methods before resorting to chemical treatments, they may use pesticides as an additional method to reduce and prevent roach populations.

While the occurrence of critters seems never-ending at times, entomology specialists look forward to that challenge.

"The best thing about my job is there is always something new," said Berger. "We do more than just kill bugs."

In addition to exterminating insects, Entomology also has a hand with other animals roaming Langley, such as snakes, raccoons and squirrels who are kept alive and then relocated. These animals are captured through the use of live animal traps, which are baited cages that, once triggered, enclose the animal without hurting or killing it.

Snakes are a frequent pest call-in at entomology, the most common of which is the black rat snake. The baby black rat snake is often mistaken for a rattlesnake because of its design, color and the way it mimics the tail rattle when approached, said Staff Sgt. Jacklynn Beltran, 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron pest control specialist noncommissioned officer in charge. Beltran also said there have not been any poisonous snakes identified at Langley to date.

While most people shudder at the thought of snakes, Entomology has its own snake enthusiast. For Airman 1st Class Michael Graves, 633rd CES pest control specialist, dealing with snakes is nothing new.

"Being from Texas, I'm used to being around animals that are in the wild," said Graves. "I love my job. It is crazy; as much as I didn't want to be in the pest management career field when I joined, I am so glad I stuck with it."

In addition to pests, Entomology also handles problems with grass and weeds on base, as they are hazardous foreign objects on the flightline and cause concrete around base to crack. Entomology starts herbiciding the flightline in April to prevent weeds from becoming a problem for aircraft.

Another issue inhabiting the flightline are voles, which are small rodents resembling mice, but with longer snouts. Voles have become a large problem this spring since they bring birds of prey to the flightline, causing potential problems for aircraft.

While initially pests may not seem to significantly impact the mission, Bingham said Entomology plays a critical role.

"Through sanitation, integrated pest management, precise pest control techniques and practices, the pest management shop allows Langley personnel to comfortably complete their mission," said Bingham. "This impacts not only Langley, but also the fighters down range."

With such an all-encompassing area of expertise, the knowledgeable personnel at Entomology are here to handle Langley's pests, ensuring the base stays "critter free."