Posted by: Katie | April 29, 2012

Life as an Entomologist

Jeff White earned his degree in Entomology from the University of Florida. Now, with over 10 years of experience in entomology, he is a Research Entomologist for Bed Bug Central and the host of Bed Bug TV. He has appeared on T.V shows, such as The Today Show, The View, Dateline, Infested, and much more. It is an honor to have him participating an interview for the blog and I hope you learn a lot about bed bugs. For those squeamish about insects, I do encourage you to read and become informed; I have not included any bed bug pictures, so please read and enjoy.

1.I believe an internship began or increased your interest in insects. What was this internship and what tasks did it involve?

Woolly Adelgid
©National Park Service

Here in NJ they have a beneficial insect rearing facility where they rear insects that have been approved for biological control of invasive species of pests.  I was involved with the hemlock woolly adelgid project.  A small, white, fluffy insect called an adelgid was accidentally imported from Japan/Far East and is killing hemlock trees in the Northeast.  The lab rears a small, black coccinellid beetle (similar to a lady bug in appearance but about the size of a black spot on a ladybugs wing) that they release and track for the control of the adelgid.  I was in charge of surveying the different hemlock groves in the state and trying to see if I could recover the beetles to help evaluate how effective the beetle is.  Basically I got to drive around the New Jersey to many of the mountainous northern parks and walk around beautiful hemlock groves all day.  It was a great internship.

2. What have been the most satisfying and most challenging aspects of your career in Entomology?

Taking a step back from the field of entomology (there really haven’t been many aspects of studying bugs that has challenged), one of the most challenging aspects of working in the pest control industry has been fighting many of the misconceptions the public has about pest control.  So many people think we use pesticides that are well more toxic than they actually are and completely misunderstand many different aspects of our industry.  The most satisfying aspect was creating the Taking the Bite out of the Holidays charity where we provide bed bug services around the holidays to those in need that have bed bug infestations.  Working with companies across the country, we’ve provided relief to many who are suffering from bed bug infestations.
3. Bed bugs can be very interesting once one gets to learn more about their life cycle and behavior. What would you like to explain to those that view them as just an “ugly bug”?

They are an ugly bug and they effect many people in a very negative way but what aggravates me the most is how people view saying they have bed bugs as saying a bad word.  If we can break down the embarrassment associated with this bug so people readily report when they have a problem and talk about ways they got them and can prevent it from happening in the future we could make a huge difference moving forward.  Bed bugs are an amazing insect in the way they survive, hide and different aspects of their biology that provide them advantages when infesting a home.  They really are the perfect pest to invade our lives and homes.

4. Media seems to be focusing on recent outbreaks with bed bugs. Do you believe that there really is an issue or do you feel that the media, like with many other topics, exaggerates the story?

There is definitely an issue and it is definitely a very real problem.  The issue is that bed bugs were a problem two years before media started to cover them in mass and are still a huge problem and people think they are subsiding and going away because the media isn’t covering it as much anymore.  Also, those in rural communities probably can’t appreciate the impact this bug can have.  The truth is that where people are, bed bugs can be.  Obviously with more people you can have more bed bugs and that’s why we tend to see larger issues in cities.  It’s not to say bed bugs can’t infest rural communities but they tend to see it less than many of your major cities and so when someone hears a story about NYC having issues they think it’s a NYC issue because they haven’t seen the problem in their area.

5. How much experience do you have dealing with bed bugs?  Are there any worst case infestations that stick in your mind?

I have been working with bed bugs for over 6 years now and spent countless days treating them in peoples apartments and homes.  While I have seen many different horrible infestations with bugs walking all over people, etc…, this one stands out as “the one”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7XagNoLgKQ

6. How were you able to think of the idea of Bed Bug TV? Have you gotten a lot of positive feedback from the videos?

The concept of Bed Bug TV came from another show called Wine Library TV hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk.  He reviewed different wines every day and provided a lot of information on wine in an informative yet fun way.  When dealing with bed bugs, many people are stressed out and extremely upset about the battle they face.  The concept was to bring good information about bed bugs to people who are struggling in a light an informative fashion.  I have received very positive feedback but it can always be made better.

7. At the moment, could you briefly explain the most efficient way to remove bed bugs? Are you working on methods that may become more suitable for Bed Bug issues?

The most efficient way to deal with bed bugs is by using heat but heat tends to be one of the more expensive ways.  Regardless, there are effective treatment methods available for bed bugs and identifying an infestation early on is the best way to reduce cost.  I am getting ready to release a new version of a protocol that will reduce the cost of bed bug treatment in manageable infestations.  As I mentioned, early detection is the key to reducing cost.  Bed encasements and interception devices may be the two best ways to help identify infestations early on and getting educated on how to avoid bring the bugs into your home is the best way to prevent bed bugs from happening in the first place.

Life Cycle
©Insecta X Termite & Pest Control

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