Pest problems impact health, well-being and comfort, requiring management to prevent and eliminate infestations. To continue addressing these issues, Clemson University received $2.8 million in gifts to launch a new urban entomology initiative, strengthening outreach to South Carolina and the pest control industry.
People often associate pest management with residential applications, but this behind-the-scenes necessity goes beyond homes and into workplaces and establishments such as service, retail and recreational facilities. In fact, most industries in the South Carolina economy rely on pest control services, including health care, education, tourism, farming and manufacturing. And what controls in one environment may fail in another.
This is why concentrating efforts around urban entomology — which examines household and structural pest control and other entomological concerns — remains a crucial focus for the state.
Launching a new initiative
Clemson University has examined insects in diverse locations and situations throughout the University’s history — from naming its first full-time entomologist, Ernest Walker, in 1897 to the new urban entomology initiative of today.
To fund the initiative that expands investigation, instruction, development and outreach, the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences received a combined $2.8 million gift from industry partners and individuals.
The SC pest control industry initiated these efforts starting in 2019, and Phil Gregory and Terminix Service Inc. were the first to step up to the plate.
Phil Gregory of Gregory Pest Solutions made a $500,000 gift. Terminix Service Inc. and the South Carolina Urban Entomology Charitable Alliance each contributed $1 million, and additional industry partners donated a total of $300,000.
This gift will further the land-grant mission by providing unrestricted funds for teaching, research and Extension outreach and by helping to establish an endowed chair, positioning Clemson as an urban entomology leader among other elite land-grant institutions.
It was the desire to establish an endowed professorship in honor of the late John Benjamin “Ben” Kissam, who retired from Clemson in 1991 as professor emeritus and an Extension project leader, that led Phil Gregory to contribute the first $500,000 toward this initiative, which was largely developed through the leadership of Eric Benson and Pat Zungoli, innovative faculty members within the Entomology discipline.
Supporting research and the employee pipeline
As a top ten pest control company in the country, Terminix Service Inc. offers innovative methods, which utilize the latest and most in-depth research to manage pest problems for residential and business needs. Terminix’s support of urban entomology at Clemson helps advance scientific development and tackle new industry challenges.
In addition, being able to implement the latest research through a knowledgeable workforce —and keeping that workforce updated with information that impacts different regions — is important for the region’s largest employer of pest management professionals.
Terminix’s latest gift supports student research and faculty instruction to build the talent and strengthen the employee pipeline, knowing that some students may graduate to join the Terminix team.
Kevin Hathorne graduated from Clemson in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science in Entomology and in 2000 with a Master of Science in Entomology and joined the Terminix team in 2000. Hathorne, a Board Certified Entomologist and technical director for Terminix Service, is responsible for technical and ongoing training for the company’s 1,200 employees.
Investing in the future of the industry
Whether students graduate Clemson to work for Terminix or any other company in the South Carolina Urban Entomology Charitable Foundation, all members view the collective gift as an industry investment.
The South Carolina Urban Entomology Charitable Alliance is a group of invested individuals and industry leaders who came together in partnership with the South Carolina Pest Control Association to support the future of the urban entomology initiative at Clemson.
The alliance includes Aiken Pest Control, Borden Pest Control, Clark’s Termite and Pest Control, Corteva Agriscience, Gregory Pest Solutions, Harris Pest Control, Home Pest Control, Modern Exterminating, Palmetto Exterminators, Inc., The South Carolina Pest Control Association, Terminix Service Inc. and Walker Pest Management.
The $1 million donated by the South Carolina Urban Entomology Charitable Alliance will continue the advancement of the field in original research investigation and examination as well as the didactic and experiential training of a workforce.
Over the years, Clemson has provided training to many termite and pest control technicians employed by companies within the Alliance, and in addition, has offered continuing education opportunities to help the industry create and maintain best practices.
By working with the Alliance and other industry partners, Clemson has another avenue to serve the state of South Carolina and beyond.
Fulfilling the land-grant mission
Clemson’s land-grant mission to engage in the creation, conservation, communication and application of knowledge is demonstrated in the urban entomology initiative by focusing on insect and pest problems in and around structures inhabited and used by people. The University’s research covers an extensive variety of health-threatening and nuisance pests such as termites, bed bugs, cockroaches, mosquitos, spiders, ants and other insects that transmit bacteria or are venomous or destructive.
With the guidance of professors and support of Clemson Extension, Clemson’s urban entomology students continually research to identify and confront pest problems — problems that include the introduction of invasive species, insects developing resistance to current treatments, vector pests transmitting diseases and many other concerns.
This work serves numerous industries through an array of public service outreach programs and private-sector training.
Aside from strengthening the link between research and application, and introducing students to potential internships and employment, the combination of these gifts aims to set Clemson’s urban entomology initiative on a course to becoming a national leader in the pest control industry as the research has transformed the industry in South Carolina, serving the people and entities of the state.
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