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On the job

Entomologist keeps insects from bugging people

Jonathan Boyar

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Jonathan Boyar examined bedbugs at the Ecologic Entomology lab in Boston. People routinely mail samples of bugs from their gardens and homes asking him to identify them.

When the Boston Housing Authority has a bedbug problem, one of the first people they call is Jonathan Boyar, the self-proclaimed “bedbug authority.” Bedbugs are a nasty nuisance, but not impossible to get rid of, said Boyar, owner of Ecologic Entomology, a Boston pest control management and consulting company.

Boyar also helps homeowners and commercial properties eradicate ants, cockroaches, fleas, mice, termites, and other vermin.

Is there any way to avoid catching bedbugs from hotels?

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If you do a fair amount of traveling, then chances are you’ve stayed in a hotel that either has, or has had, bedbugs. There are directories online that say which hotels have bedbugs, but infestation status can quickly change. The question is, how is the hotel or motel dealing with them?

There’s often an emotional component with bugs. Why are people so afraid of finding insects in their home?

We are basically raised to be afraid of crawling and biting things. The vast majority of insects we must cohabitate with are beneficial. Sometimes the bugs aren’t even really a problem — people just don’t want to see them. I got a phone call from someone who wanted their entire property sprayed. They were worried about cicadas, a species which only makes its presence known every seven or 20 years. We shouldn’t just be killing them willy-nilly.

Why are pests so challenging to get rid of?

Because they have a high reproductive threshold — they can create many generations in a short time and multiply quickly.

Why are pesticides not the answer most of the time?

The mentality used to be that an insect problem could be solved only with chemicals, but that’s a one-dimensional way of thinking, and today’s pesticides are not as effective. The burning question is: Why are the pests there? And the answer is usually because food is available. This situation needs to be addressed first.

You offer a no-cost insect identification service. What sort of bugs have been sent to you?

People mail us stuff from all over the country, usually insects from the garden or woods. Frequently, someone sends us carpet beetles, which are commonly mistaken for bedbugs. Occasionally, I will be sent something I can’t identify; the majority of the time, it’s not even an insect. One person even sent her child’s excrement because she thought there was some sort of worm in it. I told her, you need a doctor, not an entomologist.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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