Featured Article | Winter 2010

Gary Bennett – with help from John Owens and Bobby Corrigan – is yet again taking on the task of updating the industry’s textbook

By Pete Grasso • Managing Editor, Pest Management Professional

In the blustery cold confines of West Lafayette, Ind., Gary Bennett gets but a moment of rest. The annual Purdue Pest Management Conference – Bennett’s baby for the past 39 years – has just wrapped up and the PMP Hall of Famer quickly shifts his attention to a new labor-intensive project. He sends an e-mail to two of his longtime friends and former students at Purdue, John Owens and Bobby Corrigan, informing them that it’s time.  The three entomologists get together by a conference call and begin discussions on the project that will consume their lives for the next 11 months – updating Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations.

 

Falling Into Roles

During that initial conference call – one that Corrigan says, “You know it’s coming, you just don’t know when” – the team discussed the need for a 7th edition of the popular pest management textbook. “Gary is like the captain of the ship back at Purdue,” Corrigan says.  “He decides when it’s time for an update and he eases us unto it, which is pretty nice.” The three colleagues know their roles. This is the fourth time the three of them have worked together to update the Scientific Guide (as Bennett refers to it reverently). There’s a logical split to the workload.  Corrigan is the vertebrate specialist, as well as the food plant specialist, so he takes the chapters that deal with those areas. Owens has always been on the insecticide, pesticide and safety side of things, so he takes those chapters as well as some of the pest chapters he’s always had an interest in. “Then, I sort of get what’s left over,” Bennett jokes.  “We’ve always just sort of divided it up based on our interests and our backgrounds.  I guess it’s fortunate that the content in the number of chapters is almost equal – I do five or six chapters, John does five or six and Bobby does five or six.”

 

“The assignments have been pretty much the same for 20 years now,” Owens says. Indeed, Corrigan agrees with the assessment by adding, “Each of us played to our strengths.” Their intensely busy schedules could make this project nearly impossible to do, but the camaraderie between the three is evident. They know each other well enough to be able to collaborate on such an enormous undertaking. “We do some interacting back and forth,” Bennett says. “We’ve been in communication with each other pretty regularly for the past year.”

 

In The Beginning

It was early in the 1970s within Bennett first arrived on the Purdue campus and it was with the 3rd Edition that he got his first taste of the Scientific Guide.  Back then, he and Lee Truman (the man who started it) were the authors. More than 10 years passed when, in 1987, Bennett decided it was time for a complete overhaul of the Scientific Guide. “Truman had reached a point in his life where he no longer wished to be an author,” Bennett recalls. “So it was time to bring in new expertise – John and Bobby.” Corrigan recalls the moment Bennett asked him to be a part of the undertaking as being one of those unbelievable moments in life. “It was a big benchmark in my life, and one of those moments where you walk away and feel like you’re floating on air,” he says.  “I remember thinking that being a part of it was a wonderful thing and, no matter what it takes, I was going to work as hard as I could to live up to that invitation.” He also remembers how much bigger the project was back then compared to today, “From the third to the fourth edition, Gary wanted a major revision done,” he says. Owens agrees with Corrigan’s assessment. “It was a heck of a lot more work in 1987 than it is now,” he says.  “If you look at the third edition, compared to the fourth edition, you can see how much bigger the fourth edition is.”

 

Although the team was charged with expanding the amount of information contained within the Scientific Guide, the authors needed to keep in mind the audience for whom they were writing. The Scientific Guide has been, and remains, a basic introduction to pest management operations. The pest management professional (PMP) technician has always been the textbook’s audience. “It’s not like writing a scientific paper or even a scientific book that’s research oriented,” Bennett says. “It’s designed for the industry – it’s designed as an introduction to urban pest management.” The Scientific Guide is also designed to be used with Purdue’s introductory level correspondence course for pest management. To that end, Bennett warns, it has to be kept at a level where almost anyone can read and understand it. That’s actually easier said than done. “A graduate student in urban entomology isn’t going to refer to this guide for all the latest information and citations – that’s not the purpose of this book,” Owens says. “When I review my chapters, I consciously try to slim it down because I know I tend to include too many details.” Corrigan illustrates the point perfectly. “It’s difficult sometimes to take a complex topic, such as how a sprayer works, and explain it in terms which are enjoyable to read and also accurate,” he says. “You have to keep in mind the reader might not know everything you already know.”

 

Labor of Love

As the year comes to a close, the team is putting the finishing touches on the 7th edition of the Scientific Guide.  It’s been a labor-intensive year for the three, consumed by something in which all three find extreme gratification. “My career at SC Johnson has drifted away from strictly entomology,” Owens says.  “This project is a labor of love. It allows me to keep up-to-date and keep tabs on what’s going on in urban entomology and urban pest management. “To be able to go back and refresh those chapters is something I enjoy doing.  This project, for me, is a pleasure.” Both Owens and Corrigan see a fair amount of travel as it relates to their jobs – Corrigan flies back and forth between New York and Indiana on an almost weekly basis, while Owens finds himself visiting the far corners of the globe several times a year.

 

To say their jobs keep them busy is an understatement.  It’s difficult to imagine two high-profile entomologists finding time in their schedules to write a textbook, but they do find the time. Evenings, early mornings and even during the weekends, these three find the time to pour over page after page of entomology all for the betterment of the industry professional. “We’re happy to devote our nights and weekends to the Scientific Guide,” Bennett jokes.  “It’s sort of like a hobby for us – instead of hunting or fishing, we enjoy researching entomology.” For Corrigan, part of the reward of being an author on the Scientific Guide comes from what he himself learns during the process. You might think you really understand something, he says, but when you have to sit down and talk about something in-depth and put it in your own words – words that you’ll be held accountable for – you end up understanding it a whole lot better than before. “I enjoy it. Plus, I learn a lot doing it,” Corrigan says. “If there’s a gift to be given back to an author it’s that.”

 

The Seventh Edition

For the latest edition of the Scientific Guide – due out early 2010 – the team has yet again revisited everything in the book from front to back. “This is going similar to previous editions, in that the basic entomology and behavior of pests doesn’t really change all that much,” Owens says. “In the case of the ant chapter, for example, there’s new species of pest ants to talk about.” Corrigan adds, though, that even with the biology and behavior, the team is careful to review published papers. “There’s not going to be radical changes,” he says, “but you want to stay up to date.” The majority of the updating occurs with the equipment and control methods for each pest. All three authors draw on their own experiences, as well as friends and colleagues in the industry, to ensure that information is as relevant and up-to-date as possible. “We get a lot of the information on control techniques by paying attention to what is written in the trade magazines and what’s presented at the urban entomology conference and research groups,” Owens says.

 

Keeping up-to-date is a priority for the team. It’s what fuels the decision each time Bennett is contemplating a new edition of the Scientific Guide.  For the 7th edition, Bennett and his team decided to expand the information in the Scientific Guide as it relates to a particularly relevant pest – the bed bug. Bed bugs are an insect that’s experienced a significant resurgence since 2004 and re-evolved to be one of the principle pest problems with which PMP’s have to deal. “To some extent, it’s been difficult writing this chapter because some of the technologies are not fully implemented yet,” Bennett says. “We talk about everything from heat to cold to even vacuuming – all kinds of non-chemical tools are being used simply because the insecticides available are not that good at controlling bed bugs.” There are many pest management customers who certainly don’t want any bed bugs, but are also concerned about safety and pesticide exposure. “A lot of companies are promoting a green approach to bed bugs,” Owens says.  “Because some of the technology is still in the development stage, coming up with something definitive as it relates to bed bug control has been difficult.” That’s where the subject of green pest management comes into play. Corrigan says, for each chapter, he had to make a conscience effort to think about how green techniques fit into the overall picture. “Not only do we have a new chapter on bed bugs, we’ve also added a new chapter on green pest management,” Bennett says. “We introduce the green concept and talk about how it has evolved and what the components of green pest management are. Then, we dovetail that with integrated pest management (IPM), which is a concept that’s been around for a while.”

 

For the past few years, bed bugs and the concept of green pest management have dominated talk in every corner of the pest management industry. New research on the pest and information on green techniques are popping up every day, a fact that’s not lost on the three authors. “Certainly by the time the 8th edition rolls around, we’ll have a lot more information on bed bug control,” Bennett says, with only a hint of a smile. The truth is, with the 7th edition nearing completion, Bennett is already thinking about the next edition. As lead author for Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations, the Purdue professor simply wants the best possible product out there in the hands of the technicians. “This is still a one-of-a-kind textbook in that it’s written for technicians and for use in training programs. It’s the textbook for two of our correspondence courses and still serves a unique role in this industry,” he says. “Our book is used on the job by so many people.  It’s a practical guide, and the demand for constant updating and reprints is there.”