By Carleigh Turner, Web Designer
Whether it’s catching stray bats in Swing Hall, treating a bald-faced hornet’s nest at 5 a.m. or ridding those pesky pests in your dorm, Miami’s “Bug Man” is on call 24/7 to keep students safe.
Building and Grounds pest specialist Stephen Mays, 59, has been catching creepy crawlers for 30 years. However, his favorite part of the job has little to do with insects.
“I’m working with a great bunch of kids, man. I love you guys so I try to treat you all like you’re my own kids,” Mays said. “To me, that’s a real honor.”
Mays started working in pest control when a family he grew up with in Richmond, Indiana offered him the job. After working with them for 10 years, the company was bought out and Miami officially hired him. Twenty years later, he’s never left.
A usual day for Mays might begin with the removal of a wasp’s nest before sunrise. Later, a trip to the Department of Physical Facilities to see what was called in the night before, prioritizing the more urgent cases, responding to any day calls and practicing preventive maintenance on all of Miami’s buildings.
On average, Mays will go on seven to eight calls a day and around 1,550 service calls a year — all by himself.
“[It’s difficult] trying to keep up with everything because there’s so much ground to cover,” Mays said. “It keeps you running, literally.”
One night, Mays had to trap a bat that had gotten into Swing Hall. He was able to catch the bat by observing its repeated flight path, then by placing his net in the middle of it. The bat flew right in the net.
“It was great seeing all the RAs stationed with brooms and pans on their heads up and down the hallway,” Mays said. “It was hilarious.”
Another enjoyable part of the job for Mays is helping students through pest situations that may scare the bejeebers out of them. However, he said he wants people who may be scared to know most bugs on campus are harmless, plant-eating insects. And, usually, there is nothing to worry about.
Mays’ extensive knowledge of insects has also helped him keep relatively sting-free for the past 30 years. After treating thousands of yellow jacket, wasp and bull-faced hornet nests over the span of his career, his only insect injuries have been off the job.
Being Miami’s sole pest control person has its ups and downs, Mays said. And being on call for so many years has proven difficult for Mays and his family.
“I’ve missed a thousand dinners and birthday parties, so being on call is tough,” Mays said. “You can’t really plan anything because it always comes at the worst possible time.”
However, Mays is about to make up for some of those lost moments.
“I can count on two fingers the times I’ve taken a week off in 20 years,” Mays said.
Mays and his wife have been saving up for 20 years to go on vacation, he said.
The couple left for their two-week vacation in Hawaii this week.
“You have to decide if you love what you do and that’s why you do it, really,” Mays said. “Working with these kids and doing a service that I know very few people can provide, that makes me feel good about myself. So that’s why I still do it, even though it’s really tough.”