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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chinatown rats have cousins all over Oahu

By Lee Cataluna

Maybe we're getting bachi from all the joking around about the rats in Chinatown because guess what?

They're everywhere.

Local pest control companies have seen a sizable bump in calls about rodents, and it's not just in one area, but all over the island.

Tropical Termite and Pest control reports an increase. Kaulana Pest Control reports rat calls every other day. Rodney Bejer of Aloha Termite and Pest Control, said: "Yeah, now that you mention it, I've had two or three calls just this morning," he said. "One man was saying a rat was eating the hoses to his washing machine."

'Äina Haina and Niu Valley neighbors report a rat revival much more obvious than the surge of rodents during the protracted Kalaniana'ole sewer work. There are mysterious claw marks on trees, pukas in the box of crackers left out on the kitchen counter, dogs barking their specific "rat bark" and reports of rats chewing clear through a linoleum floor. Street corner debates pop up over the best type of bait to use in a trap (top contenders are peanut butter and cuttlefish).

Some people swear by their dogs' vigilance or the diligence of neighborhood cats. One neighbor joked that he takes off his hearing aid so the scratching in the ceiling doesn't keep him up at night.

Bejer said during the rainy season, rats tend to move into residential areas from fields or sewer pipes. "What we do is put out bait boxes and then do monthly maintenance."

Whatever your solution, don't call the state's vector control office because it no longer exists. Thirty-six positions in the department were eliminated this month, leaving just six people who were transferred to a different department. A recorded message at the number says:

"Aloha. Due to the state's poor fiscal condition , a reduction in force has resulted in the dissolving of the vector control branch. With its few remaining staff transitioned into the Department of Health Sanitation branch, the vector control function of the program will be restricted to the following: Limited identification of existing or new vector species of public health concern; consultation on vector control; surveillance at airports and areas of extensive vector breeding and/or presence; investigation of vector complaints limited solely to those determined to have a major impact on public health. Nuisance complaints involving vectors and odors generated by vector breeding including rodents and flies will no longer be investigated by the department."

The message ends with a bittersweet "Thank you for allowing us to serve you. Mahalo Nui Loa and Happy New Year."

Meanwhile, the Department of Health wasn't taking calls on Friday because everyone was on furlough.

So if Ben is hanging out in your crawlspace and eating your Hinode, you're kind of on your own.

And no more jokes about Chinatown because — look now — bachi.