Difference Maker: Gary Bennett, Purdue University

|  November 13, 2012

As a child, were you fascinated by or fearful of pests?

Growing up in a pest control family (Bennett Pest Control Co. in Lake Charles, La.), I cannot remember a time when I haven’t been interested in insects. My grandparents were farmers, hunters and fishermen, so I grew up in the outdoors around animals and plants of all kinds — the good ones and destructive ones. So, I guess you can say I have about 65 years of experience in biology and pest management.

When and why did you first fall for this business?

I don’t think I’ve ever had an interest in any profession other than pest management. My mom would’ve preferred medicine, but bugs were it for me. Ultimately, she couldn’t have been happier that
I ended up in education and research.

For which structural pest do you have the most respect, and why?

Most of my research has dealt with cockroaches, termites, ants and bed bugs. I even worked in the
family business when all these major urban pests were relatively easy to control. However, German cockroach resistance was my first formal research activity

How do you define integrated pest management (IPM)?

IPM is the integrated use of all the pest management tools available in an environmentally sensitive and economically feasible manner. Education is the key to the successful delivery of this concept.

Without mentioning any suppliers or brands, which three management technologies will take off in the next 10 years?

Nonchemical tools have been extensively researched and developed recently. In the next decade, we’ll
see biochemical and genetics-based technologies develop that we can deliver to pest populations that
will alter pest behavior, growth and development, so that pest problems will be minimized. And low-toxicity compounds will continue to be developed for IPM and green pest management.

What are the top three obstacles facing the industry?

Politics, regulations and education. Change in these areas is occurring at a rapid pace. Politics is more volatile and contentious than ever before and is being impacted by special interest groups in ways that are frightening. We must be prepared to meet challenges from these groups at a moment’s notice.
Regulations are being generated by untold numbers of organizations and agencies just looking for a cause to champion — often simply making up a cause to champion. Some of these are dangerous for those working to protect property, health and food supplies. We have the task of not only keeping
ourselves educated and up to date on everything IPM, but just as importantly, the consuming public. But education is the challenge that, if met, will help us resolve our political and regulation obstacles.

What are the industry’s top three opportunities?

Politics, regulations and education! Those of us who adapt to change will prosper
and grow. Change in these areas offers many opportunities. We must take advantage of them.

Tell us about the 77th Purdue Pest Management Conference.

It will be held Jan. 7-9, 2013 on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Ind. “Progressive Pest Management” will be the theme. The use of new ideas and technologies promote innovative and environmentally sensitive approaches to pest management. The foundation for progressive pest management is built on strong programs in continuing education and advanced training. The conference has been designed by our Industry Planning Committee to assist attendees and
their companies to meet these goals.

At a Glance
Gary Bennett, Professor and Urban Pest Management Center Director, Purdue University
Years in pest management: 60
Industry mentors: My father, Grover Bennett, as well as Drs. Phil Spear, Charles Wright and John Osmun
Top three industry achievements:
➤ Distinguished Achievement Award in Urban Entomology, Arnold Mallis Memorial Lecturer, National Conference on Urban Entomology.
➤ Entomological Society of America Recognition Award in Urban Entomology (the first such award
presented by the society).
➤ Elected to the Pest Management Hall of Fame.

Jerry Mix was editor/publisher of PMP until his retirement in 2004. A member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2005), contact Mix at jnmix@aol.com

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