Pheromone Trail to Success
David Mueller, BCE, Owner and Founder – Insects Limited & Fumigation Service and Supply
I was raised in Evansville, Indiana by a WWII Navy veteran and a mother of five children. Dad was a flour miller and grain elevator manager who understood hard work as the oldest boy of 10 children during the Great Depression.
I attended Purdue University from 1971 – 1975. I started as a biology major and switched to Environmental Science during the “Silent Spring and anti-pesticide” era. Soon, I became an entomology major where I developed lifelong relationships in that department.
Notable professors who influenced my career were Dr. John Osmun, Dr. Steve Yaninek, Dr. Austin Frishman, and Dr. Tom Turpin. All with different styles but similar outcomes, all four popularized entomology and were friends to the students. Dr. Osmun was a great person. He had a way of inviting you to be his friend. He loved students and students loved him. His Pest Management Conference parties for alumni at his home were something we all looked forward to each January.
In 1973, Professor Dave Mathew showed me a pheromone trap for Indian meal moths. A pheromone is a chemical signal animals and insects use to communicate. Eureka! … this was the beginning of an entrepreneurial experiment that today, 40 years later, has blossomed into an international business with modern techniques to monitor, control, and manage insect pests.
We started in Indianapolis in 1981 with $2000, two people, one phone, a 175 sq. ft. office and a burning ambition that focused on protecting stored products. Forty years later, this same passion continues today with Fumigation Service & Supply, Inc. (FSS) and Insects Limited. Insects Limited is a pheromone technology company with 13 employees and four Purdue Board Certified Entomologists, which discovers new pheromone and sociochemical compounds.
We hire Purdue students for both companies. Two Insects Limited long-time employees, president, Pat Kelley and our great pheromone scientist Alain VanRycheghem, are Purdue grads. We have organized 14 international conferences on stored product protection titled Fumigants & Pheromones, with over 3000 people attending from 60 countries and six continents. FSS (FSSzone.com) currently employs about 100 fumigation specialists located in nine offices from Nebraska to Pennsylvania. We are regular speakers on pest management programs at the Purdue Pest Management conference, around the country and abroad.
One of our guiding principles came from a Purdue graduate named Orville Redenbacher, who visited Purdue in the mid 70’s with a white station wagon and a load of ‘popping corn’. He stated, “People who don’t know, will buy from people that do know.” To this day, FSS and Insects Limited are leading educators in stored product protection. We share through education. I have published two books and over 100 newsletters on stored product protection.
In 1995, I was approached by the United Nations (The Montreal Protocol) to work on projects in developing countries to help eliminate the ozone depleting substance methyl bromide. This fumigant was used throughout the world to control insects and bacteria in stored commodities and soil. I have visited 78 countries teaching people how to protect stored products with alternative methods to eliminate this serious environmental contaminate.
Dr. John Osmun told me on several occasions that every entomology department in the country should place a statue of Rachel Carson in front of its entomology department for the impact she had on accelerated funding and research. I was proud to be part of the Centennial Celebration (1912-2012) Committee put together by Dr. Steve Yaninek, the department head at the time, to discuss departmental development. From those meetings came Dr. Tom Turpin’s idea for the statue titled, The Entomologist which was dedicated in front of “old Entomology Hall” in 2017 during Purdue’s Spring Fest and Bug Bowl. We have lent a helping hand to the Entomology department in various other ways over the years, including the remodeling of the Pi Chi Omega Centennial Room in Smith Hall which was designed by Mrs. Dortha Osmun, funding student travel to assist in research presentations, as well as giving numerous presentations at the annual Purdue Pest Management Conference.
After retiring in 2018, I turned the companies over to my sons, Tom Mueller (owner of Insects Limited), and Pete Mueller (owner of FSS and Purdue graduate). I have personally attended 47 consecutive Purdue conferences. The Mueller Family has a total combined 64 years of Purdue conferences attended since 1975.
I have been married to Mary Beth Mueller for 45 years. We have three children (Pete, Tom, and Francie) and six grandchildren. My hobbies include going to Purdue basketball games, fly fishing with my fellow entomology alumni in Rockbridge, MO, and carving duck decoys.
I continue to interact and collaborate with the Department of Entomology on exciting new opportunities and hope to let you know more about them, as they unfold.