November 11, 2011
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Biology prof goes buggy on DIY show
He goes by many names: Robert, Bob, “Mosquito Man,” and now “Dr. Bed Bug.”
The producers of the DIY Network’s “Disaster House” coined the latest moniker for Metro State Biology Assistant Professor Bob Hancock after he landed a spot on a segment titled “Nocturnal Nuisances.” The half-hour episode looked at what can happen when bats invade a house and bedbugs are on the loose.
Metro State Biology Assistant Professor Bob Hancock let the bedbugs loose in an episode of the DIY Network show “Disaster House.”
Hancock, who joined the Metro State faculty in 2008, is a medical entomologist who’s an authority on blood-sucking insects. He was featured in a Westword story in March on bedbugs. Hancock figures it might have been that story, along with his other media credentials, that brought him to the attention of “Disaster House.”
The show depicts real and simulated damage to a house acquired by DIY “so viewers can discover what it takes to repair some of the biggest mishaps homeowners face today,” the show’s website says.
For the bat segment, the producers piled hundreds of pounds of pennies on the attic floor to simulate a buildup of guano. The pennies eventually crashed through the bedroom ceiling. “They do some creative things like that, but I didn’t think that was going to work for bedbugs,” Hancock says. “You gotta have bedbugs.”
But persuading them to use the real thing was a hard sell.
“The production staff and crew were kind of freaked out about having living bedbugs in their house, especially since it was the very first shoot of their season,” Hancock said. “They didn’t want to be exposed to bedbugs throughout three or four months of work.”
So he devised a “foolproof safety system” using only male bedbugs, 48 of them. “Males are a dead end,” he says, since they can’t lay eggs and give rise to an infestation.
Over the 10- minute segment, Hancock and host Josh Temple chat about bed bugs as the insects crawl around a bed, their movements captured by a high-tech camera. A specially trained dog named “Macaroni” is brought in to sniff out the critters and then industrial heaters are deployed to bring the temperature up to a bug-lethal 120 or so degrees. The heat treatment is, as Hancock put it, “the gold standard” of anti-bedbug weaponry.
“The segment came out…really good, really spicy.”
Read more about Hancock at success profile.