Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Attack of the Fukushima Nuclear Flies! Trillions of Disgusting Flies!

Oh, this is just plain disgusting (but a cool sensationalist title, eh?) Now, after the disaster of March 11, to add insult to injury, the people in Tohoku have to contend with a massive fly invasion. Gross!... Now, I know where Japan got all those ideas for those weird monster movies in the 1960's....

Those weren't weird ideas thought up by some guy at home. In Japan, this stuff really goes on in real life. Earthquakes, tsunami, nuclear accidents! Heck, remember the attack of the giant jellyfish I wrote about on the very morning of the earthquake disaster?

In April of 2011, just 3 weeks after the March earthquake and tsunami, my friends and I went on a relief trip to Ishinomaki. One of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami (video at bottom).

Even though it was early April and still quite cold (one needed a coat outside)... The place reeked. There were dead fish and other animals everywhere. Now that summer is here it seems that flies are breeding in the trillions.

Hordes of flies continue to plague areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake, some of them threatening survivors with serious disease.

Flies have thrived on the ample rotten fish and sludge that riddles the disaster-hit areas. Municipal and private exterminators kill them, only to see more emerge, and residents constantly in need of bug sprays and swatters are becoming increasingly irritated.

In mid-July, extermination companies nationwide were dispatched to an industrial complex in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. The workers, who wear protective suits and masks, used about two tons of bug spray in the morning alone.

"This is an abnormal situation," one of the exterminators, Hideaki Yamanaka, 63, from Osaka Prefecture, said. "It's the first time in decades that I've used such a large amount of spray."

Flies are hatching from rotten fish carried out of destroyed processing facilities by the tsunami, and also sludge-filled drains. Local governments have been taking measures such as burying rotten fish underground and abandoning them at sea.

According to experts, flies are also residing in the styrofoam containers the fish were kept in. These containers have stayed afloat at sea, spreading the fly outbreak even further.

An Ofunato city government official said, "Even in commercial and residential areas without fisheries companies, we have received numerous requests to exterminate flies."

One problem is that flies are hatching from areas previously cleared by exterminators. Since April, the Tokyo-based Japan Pest Control Association, which includes harmful insect-exterminating companies and other entities, has dispatched a total of 4,000 workers to 14 municipalities, including Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, and Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture.

Motokazu Hirao, 73, deputy head of the association, said, "Removal of debris has progressed and the peak of the [fly outbreak] has passed."

But he added, "Flies hatch every 10 to 20 days. We need to persistently exterminate them."

The Self-Defense Forces have taken the fly outbreak seriously, dispatching 10 teams of 15 members each for "epidemic prevention assistance" since mid-July. They have even deployed spraying vehicles and portable sprayers normally used to defend against biological and chemical weapons.

By the end of July, the teams had sprayed bug-killing chemicals at 12 locations in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures upon request of the municipal governments. Although they cleared those areas, an SDF officer in charge of the teams said, "Because the bug killer chemicals are only effective for one week or so, we'll stand by for more requests from the local governments."

Mutsuo Kobayashi, director of the Department of Medical Entomology of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said that the majority of flies in May and June were the Calliphora nigribarbis variety, which prefers outdoor environments. Recently, most flies in the area have been smaller varieties such as house flies and green bottle flies, he said.

Kobayashi warned: "There has been a report that house flies are transmitting O-157 E. coli bacteria, which causes intestinal bleeding. It's important to use mesh-screens on windows and not leave food unattended."

In evacuee shelters, residents have struggled in their efforts against flies, such as hanging flypaper. At Minato Middle School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which is being used as an evacuation center, an uncountable number of flies can be seen in its garbage collection site. There is a site for temporary storage of disaster debris nearby.

A volunteer in the shelter said, "One can of [bug] spray runs out so quickly."
Although mesh window screens are attached to the school's windows, flies are able to penetrate small gaps. The city government dispatched 15 temporary workers to spray the area, but the number of flies has not decreased.

Katsuro Daikoku, a 72-year-old evacuee in the shelter, said, "Every time I have a meal I have to kill flies with a fly swatter."

Ugh. What did I tell you? Disgusting. 

I understand that the flies are a problem but I wonder about the wisdom of killing them all with chemicals. The flies are part of nature's process to decompose rotting organic material. Also, what effect will massive dumping of chemicals have on the environment and the surrounding waters that these chemicals will eventually run into?

But, then again, according to Know Your Pests:

One need only consider the ability of flies to transmit diseases. Mosquitoes and black flies are responsible for more human suffering and death than any other group of organisms except for the transmitted pathogens and man!

Here is a video we made of our trip to Ishinomaki in April. 


Andrew Joseph said...

I was actually wondering about this very topic for the past few weeks.
With so much death - and I'm not talking only of human life - in the areas hit hard by the tsunami and earthquake, I thought about possible plague and pestilence problems... you know... two of the so-called horsemen of the apocalypse.
No chemicals... just swat the hell out of everything. Why invite more problems with chemicals?
Just get rid of stagnant water - after every rain I walk around the backyard and look for possible mosquito breeding grounds... Me? I'm paranoid about bugs like Mothra et al.

Anonymous said...

It does seem as if the fly problem is being prolonged and extended by killing them off, just let them do their cleanup job and things will get back to more normal levels.

But, goberment is good at prolonging and extending problems,... it's what they do.

- clark

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