Hornets…Yellowjackets…and Wasps – OH MY! Most of us will spend the summer avoiding stinging bugs. Jeffrey Goff, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and chair of the Department of Natural Sciences at Malone University will be tracking them down. There is purpose to his summer “hobby.” Goff serves as a collector for a pair of pharmaceutical companies. The venom collected is then used to help immunize patients who, without the allergy shot, would suffer severe allergic reactions to stinging insects.
“Of all the allergy shot regimens given to patients, venom shots are among the most effective: roughly 98%. People with a history of severe allergic reactions to stings can be given a very small dose of the venom at regular intervals and at increasing concentrations until the patient no longer has an allergic response to stings,” Goff says.
To date, he has collected seven different species of stinging insects for ALK-Abello Laboratories (Pennsylvania) and for Hollister-Stier Laboratories (Spokane, Washington). These include the bald-faced hornet, yellow-faced hornet, German yellowjackets, eastern yellowjackets, common yellowjackets, downy yellowjackets, and European paper wasps. Few of us would volunteer to get close enough to a hornet to determine if its face is bald or yellow.
But Goff enjoys the work, and the fact that he is providing a valuable service on two fronts – ridding backyards of pests, and helping allergy patients enjoy the out-of-doors without fear of an allergic reaction.
“I collect anywhere from 1 to 10 pounds of each species,” he explains. “At the labs, the venom is extracted and the individual chemicals responsible for causing allergic reactions are separated from the other chemicals that cause pain, etc. These purified allergens are then supplied to allergy clinics for injections.”
Since the labs pay for the insects, Goff can offer free removal for homeowners. He says that a typical extermination fee a homeowner might otherwise be quoted could be more than $100. He points out, “In addition to the financial savings, homeowners are assured that their ‘pests’ are being used to save lives.”
Goff also provides homeowners with knowledge.
“Many homeowners call with concerns about bugs that turn out to not be stinging insects at all, or are yellowjackets with a very mild temperament. I have been able to provide piece of mind. Additionally, many homeowners assume that a hornet nest is reused. If I can’t get to the nest to remove it – say it’s 35 feet high or higher – many homeowners are ready to shell out big bucks to remove the nest. They are afraid it will continue to get bigger and bigger each year until they get it removed. I have been able to assure homeowners that hornet nests are never reused.”
To contact Jeff Goff for free insect removal, call 330-492-3340 or emailjg...@malone.edu.