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The personal perils of becoming a pest management professional

Austin M. Frishman, Ph.D. 


What could go wrong as a pest management professional? I have compiled several mishaps I have encountered during my life, all because of my love for insects and pest management. 

Graduate school and teaching

Once in a medical entomology class, I was fooling around with a live backswimmer (notonectid) in a beaker of water. The professor watched and said nothing. Moments later, it sliced my finger. He laughed and said experience is the best teacher.  

During a lab, we collected about 50 live white mice for a rodenticide test. The night before, about half the mice escaped from the basement holding pen. We altered the lab assignment to learn how to trap live mice in a biology building, and it took us a week to succeed. 

Adventures on the Amazon in South America 

During a trip up the Amazon River, I collected insects at night with a white sheet and an insect light trap. Because there were so many insects on the sheet, I collected what I wanted and brushed the others off. Unfortunately, there was a paper wasp hidden in the sheet. I touched it with my finger and, within a minute, was on the floor gasping for breath. It took me what seemed an eternity to start breathing again. 

Falling through ceilings can be an occupational hazard 

Imagine crawling all the way to the end of an attic to bait for mice. I did this once and my foot went through the ceiling twice. One of the worst incidents occurred while I was crawling across a suspended ceiling. It gave way and I fell about 10 feet. Fortunately, I landed on a bed, and no one was in it, but my boss had to pay the repair bill. 

Powderpost beetles in a church 

My boss sent me to a church to do a caulking job for powderpost beetles. The product label called for applying strips of gel about every 3 feet with a caulking gun. I did not think it would work, so I doubled the dose and applied the strands every 1 foot. It worked, but it leached up and stained the carpet above. Another bill for my boss.   

The best-laid plans often go astray 

We scheduled a preventive cluster fly job for a four-story office building on a weekend so no one would be present. The parking lot was roped off. The objective was to apply a residual material on the exterior walls of the top floor.   

This is what happened: 

  • A delivery driver drove through the tape, thinking it did not pertain to him 
  • A doctor was in his office with the window wide open, since building management never informed him that he could not be there 
  • A young man was walking his elderly mother across the parking lot into the building to visit the doctor with the open window 
  • Two vehicles were left in the parking lot from the night before 
  • A young lady with a child in a stroller walked along the sidewalk where the pesticide drift could occur 

I had to stop the job five times. Fortunately, nobody was exposed to any pesticides and the job was a success. 

Experiencing all these incidents over the years – plus many others – has allowed me to grow and learn as a pest management professional. Making mistakes is a great learning opportunity, and I hope people continue to learn from mistakes so we all become better at what we do. 


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