At A Glance
It is believed there are over 5 million insect species on earth. While most insects are beneficial, most people can agree you don’t want any pests in your home, office space or anywhere else you commonly frequent. At Clemson, one man has dedicated his life to figuring out how to control the unwelcome intruders in our lives. Eric Benson studies the insects that invade the places where we live, work and play, analyzing their habits and learning their weaknesses. He uses the data he collects to create new and better ways to manage them.
If you’ve ever been appalled by a cockroach scurrying across your floor, or unnerved by a line of ants trickling out of a kitchen cabinet, Benson’s research applies to you. Benson has spent the better part of three decades investigating the insect pests invading the places where we live, work and play; analyzing their habits and learning their weaknesses. He uses that data to create new and better ways to control them.
Benson explores integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for urban pests including ants, cockroaches, bed bugs, flies, and termites. His work has proved vital in solving pest problems that have plagued people for generations. While some household insects, tend to just be a nuisance, others, like bedbugs and termites, can cause serious emotional and financial distress. Still others can pose very real health risks. For example, cockroaches can cause severe allergy and asthma attacks in vulnerable people and contaminate the food we eat. Benson likes to point out that some mosquito species and the diseases they vector are the deadliest animals on the planet.
Benson has worked in research and development for Ciba-Geigy (Syngenta) in Switzerland, Hartz Mountain Corporation and Dow Agrosciences (Corteva) as well as for Auburn University. For 14 years he could be heard on the South Carolina educational radio show, Your Day, answering call-in questions about bugs from listeners in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.
Clemson’s entomology program goes back more than 100 years, to right after the university was founded, because agriculture and entomology go hand-in-hand. Benson took his expertise in household pests to the fields of Asia with a team of other Clemson researchers in 2010, sharing his knowledge of IPM with farmers in Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia. He found that even though pest management in agriculture is not his expertise, the same principles apply from a home to a field.
Benson believes many people have limited knowledge and understanding about insects even though they affect everyone in some way. Some insect pests have been living with man since the beginning of recorded time, so getting rid of them is not realistic. Managing them is the only viable option, so he tries to learn a little more about them every day and apply the principles of IPM.