Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the January 2, 2002
edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Building a Better Mosquito Trap: An
Take a really pesky problem — biting insects
like mosquitoes and horseflies — and add two researchers who,
though retired from senior positions, kept on using their brains.
They came up with the Bugjammer, a device that the United States
of Agriculture has said is the best fly and mosquito trap ever
Say that next spring, when you want to have a cookout, you find your
backyard is filled with mosquitoes. You don’t want to expose your
guests to the West Nile Virus. Your solution last summer was to call
in exterminators to spray the yard. Now the $150 Bugjammer device
is an alternative to aerial spraying for mosquitoes in residential
Roy Nelson and Lantz Crawley are fulfilling the quintessential
dream, to invent "the better mousetrap" (in this case, a
trap) and bring it to market. It was not a "get-rich-quick"
endeavor, because they learned hard lessons along the way, but they
still hope to "strike it rich."
Does their story follow the "Ten Steps to Start a Business"
format, explained on the following pages? Let’s find out.
used to work in the fiber optics arena at Greg Olson’s and Vladimir
Ban’s former company Epitaxx. Before he retired, Crawley had been
vice president of research at American Cyanamid, now American Home
Products. They had plenty of experience in both technical and
areas. They were more than ready.
and say the competition is paltry. "Citronella candles work,
says Nelson, and the electronic zappers do not work at all against
mosquitoes. A device called a mosquito magnet works only against
(not flies) in a foot radius. It has a blinking light and a fan that
sucks the mosquitoes into a bag. Not only does it cost from $700 to
$1,300, but it is also ineffective during the day.
and Crawley used the premise that biting flies and mosquitoes find
their juicy targets — not by their sense of smell — but by
listening for mammalian heartbeats. Nelson’s and Crawley’s work was
based on research by Dan Kline, the mosquito expert of the United
States Department of Agriculture. "There IS a visual component,
it can be up to 40 percent. But the number one thing that brings
in from long distances is low frequency sound, and it carries
says Nelson. "Our discovery is that CO2 and heat and those
are not as much of an attractant as a landing signal that says, `this
is alive, start biting.’" They decided to make a device, the
that works with flies, mosquitoes, and gnats and has an effective
range as high as 100 to 300 yards. It looks like a camp lantern, sends
out heartbeat-like sounds on a very low frequency. The sound lures
the insects to their fate, a glue strip that can be changed once a
The partners decided they could market the domestic version of this
device, powered by batteries, for $150. The commercial version, for
stables and commercial areas, is powered by CO2 cartridges and costs
"Believe it or not, mosquitoes can differentiate between birds
and mammals, and we can change the mix of insects caught by changing
the heartbeat rhythm," says Nelson. "Very few friendlies"
is his answer, when he is asked whether his device also catches
"We do not substitute for municipal spraying," Nelson says,
"but we can substitute for aerial spraying when you are having
It is owned by Nelson and Crawley plus Wayne Andrews, a field
in Massachusetts; Randy Cooke of Ringoes, who provides compliance
work and coordination; and Keith Woodruff, an engineer in
they could manufacture and sell the device on their own. But while
looking for venture money or investors, they encountered multiple
disappointments. "We were strapped for cash, and venture money
was very tough to find last year — nobody was doing venture money
in agriculture. At the time if you weren’t a dotcom, they weren’t
interested. Or they wanted so much of the company we said no
"We went to a lot of companies that turned us down, and we got
turned down by the New Jersey Commission on Science & Technology,"
says Crawley. "I was bigtime disappointed in that." He
it to the time in World War II when, "the guy who came up with
the idea of the jet engine had gone to military people and could not
get it funded. It’s tough out there. We were really limping
involve hiring an accountant (Lawrenceville-based Ira Marks) and
an attorney (Bacchus & Bacchus in Pennington did the incorporation
papers and David Leason of Manhattan-based Darby & Darby is the
any. "We have been through this a bunch of times," says
"We’re not babes in the woods."
Nelson says he gets his scientific interest from his mother’s side
of the family. He went to UCLA, graduating in 1968, and has a master’s
degree from Illinois State and a PhD from Penn State. After two years
in the U.S. Army’s materials lab at Fort Belvoir, he worked for RCA
until 1989 and then became a materials consultant, mostly for
companies. He is married and has two grown children, one grad student
at Stanford, and the other attending Wittenberg College in
Lantz Crawley, the son of a District of Columbia taxi driver, went
to American University, Class of 1967, and did research at Walter
REd Army Hospital. He earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh
and did postdoctoral work at Harvard. From 1971 to 1978 he worked
on central nervous system drugs at Lederle, then moved to the consumer
division and became director of research there in 1981.
In 1984 he began 15 years in the agricultural division as vice
of discovery research, working on successful herbicides for soybeans,
and an endectoside, moxidectin, that is still being used in American
Home’s ProGuard product to prevent heartworms in dogs.
Insect control has been always been a major focus in Crawley’s career,
and his work on the Combat brand roach trap was probably the best
preparation for his current venture.
Only those with strong stomachs will want to know how the Combat trap
works: "We had a food source that the roaches were interested
in, initially peanut butter with the active ingredient that is used
to kill fire ants," says Crawley, "a very slow acting and
very safe compound. Because the roaches eat each other’s feces, and
most of the compound would pass through, the roach that had eaten
the peanut butter would deposit the bait all over the place and clean
out a whole building."
To sell the trap required a significant change in consumer behavior.
At the time, people wanted to spray a bug and get it killed, and they
didn’t like the idea of trapping a bug inside a little trap. The bugs
weren’t really going to be trapped — but explaining how it really
worked was not going to win lots of buyers either.
"The marketing group didn’t think it was going to work, but we
were overwritten by the CEO," says Crawley.
So, to market these roach traps, Crawley found himself in unusual
circumstances. "We were running around in roach outfits trying
to get attention," he says. A lobster costume was modified to
look roach-like. "I took my turn, standing in front of the Piggly
Wiggly store looking like a roach."
The result of the roach shenanigans was that Combat became the number
1 household brand. Crawley and Nelson have the same hopes for
Somehow they managed to get together enough money to get two thousand
devices manufactured in Dover, Delaware. Unfortunately they weren’t
finished in time for any meaningful sales this summer. Rosedale Mills
sold a few, and Pennington Hardware has three of the Bugjammers on
its shelves. Crawley and Nelson are trying to sell the rest of the
manufacturing run in southern states, particularly the horse market
in Florida, because the Bugjammer is reported to be "only thing
that works in an indoor situation for biting flies." But they
are almost ready to announce that they have managed to license their
patent to a major multinational company. "As of December 1, we
are no longer involved in manufacturing, and once more we are back
to doing R&D," says Nelson.
Their entrepreneurial dream has come true. From now on, the Bugjammer
will carry the label of a public firm traded on the New York Stock
Exchange. Look for the Bugjammer on shelves nationwide.
— Barbara Fox
vice president. 609-737-6836; fax, 609-737-7119. Home page:
Just as the New Year was about to begin, and as we were
putting the finishing touches on this annual Survival Guide issue,
we received a sobering reminder that hard work is not enough, and
that single-minded dedication does not ensure success. David Holmes,
chairman of the board of the Princeton Chamber of the Commerce, sent
out an E-mail just before Christmas to announce that Ellen Hodges,
the only president the chamber has ever had, is out after 27 years.
Hodges sent an E-mail of her own hours later. "I was totally
working many seven-day weeks and 10 to 12 hours every day. Except
for a bout with cancer, a broken foot, and one day of the flu, I have
never taken a sick day." She ended her message by saying,
27 years of dedicated service, this is not a happy ending for me."
Holmes, president and executive director of the Eden Family of
freely admits that Hodges worked hard for the chamber. But the
is losing members — down to about half of the 1,200 it reached
in the early 1990s — and is on shaky ground financially. He blames
stagnant membership on a chamber frozen in the past. "It has been
struggling for a decade," he says.
Holmes’ idea for revitalizing the chamber is to establish welcome
centers to tout the attractions of the greater Princeton area —
the hotels, restaurants, and cultural events. The chamber needs to
distance itself from its reputation as an "intellectual
he says, speaking of its heavy schedule of lectures and workshops.
It needs to engage the area’s big corporations, and its retailers
Holmes says it is imperative for the chamber to establish a presence
in downtown Princeton. If it succeeds in doing so, the chamber will
have come full circle. Downtown is where the organization began its
life in the years just before the Route 1 corridor began to fill up
with corporate offices and shopping malls. In fact, Hodges enjoys
reminiscing about how she spent weekends working side-by-side with
shop owners on beautification projects.
The chamber left downtown, Holmes says, only because it could not
afford the rent. It still can’t, but he is hoping that a retailer
will be persuaded to donate space. Wouldn’t Hodges, with her
in working with downtown merchants, be the perfect person to drum
up space and launch the welcome centers?
Holmes replies that "over time we have been typecast as an
chamber. It’s very hard for people to see beyond the typecasting.
We have to do something significant. It was mutually agreed. We need
new vision, new leadership, new energies."
The very survival of the chamber is on the line, Holmes says. Whether
jettisoning Hodges will buoy the organization is still an unknown.
The certainty is that individuals and groups alike have to keep in
mind that change is indeed the only constant. Success does not
more success. In this, our annual Survival Guide issue, we look at
ways to keep sharp, keep growing, and keep a weather eye out for both
the big unexpected changes — like the one Hodges is facing —
and the little changes that accumulate over time — like the ones
the Princeton Chamber is facing.
The next two articles are devoted to entrepreneurs. After that, the
articles are useful to jobseekers.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.