An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

What’s bugging you Yokota?

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrett Smith
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Summertime means longer days, a warmer climate, and more bugs. The increase in insects means more chances of insect-borne diseases, such as Japanese encephalitis, which spread via mosquitoes.

The 374th Medical Group entomology Airmen collect samples of insects from across Yokota Air Base, and submit the samples to a testing facility to look for any of these insect-borne diseases that may affect base residents and the nearby Japanese communities.

“We want to make sure people are aware of the precautions to take before something actually happens,” said Staff Sgt. Miguel Buenaflor, 374th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron community health section chief. “As preventive medicine Airmen, we need to see what diseases these insects could be carrying and inform the public for their health and safety.”

The program uses different traps to attract mosquitos, such as the gravid trap, the light trap, and the BG-Sentinel trap. The gravid trap uses a mosquito-tempting mixture of water, sugar, and yeast, whereas the nighttime light trap attracts insects and catches them in a net, and the BG-Sentinel trap uses a scented lure to trick the mosquitoes into the trap.

“We set up about four traps a week,” Buenaflor said. “We start in May and we usually continue until September or October when insect populations are higher.”

The main objective is catching female mosquitoes as they alone seek blood for reproduction by biting, and end up transmitting mosquito-borne illnesses. They’re examined under a microscope after collection to determine which are male and which are female.

“You can tell the two apart because the male mosquitoes have hair on their antennas, and the females do not,” said Airman 1st Class D-Jay Gangano, 374th Medical Group communicable disease section lead.

The sorted insects are sent to Kadena Air Base and tested for any human communicable diseases, such as Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, and malaria. 

“Kadena will identify the insects and then run labs and let us know if they are carrying anything,”  Buenaflor said. “In the chance that they are, we can notify the public and the 374th Civil Engineering Squadron pest management office about the location the infected insects were found.”

If there’s threat of an insect-borne disease outbreak, the program members will work with base authorities to determine possible infestation sites and manage their populations to a safe level.

“I feel like this program is one of the different areas that people don’t know that we do, so it’s very unique,” said Buenaflor. “It’s a simple concept, but provides a lot of benefit to the community.”