Bug Diagnostician on the Job at Montana State U

Laurie Kerzicnik can ID what bugs you.

Published on: Feb 6, 2014

Montanans who want to know that is dwelling in their dwelling or barn can call Montana State University's new "bug buster."

Laurie Kerzicnik is your friend with the ability to identify those pesky undesirable guests.

She is MSU's Shutter Diagnostic Laboratory's full-time insect diagnostician, marking the return of this service after a five year lapse.  The former Colorado State University crop production services agent specializes in integrated pest management. 

Her special knack is spiders. Kerzicnik has collected more than 11,000 of them in eastern Colorado alone.

Possibly known as the bug lady at local schools, she would bring tarantulas, scorpions and cockroaches to show off to local school kids for – if they dared – hands-on learning.

Montana State University bug detective Laurie Kerzicnik shows off a larva of a long-horned beetle sent to her for identification.
Montana State University bug detective Laurie Kerzicnik shows off a larva of a long-horned beetle sent to her for identification.

While a spider expert, she is able to identify any bug she receives at the lab, says Extension plant pathologist Mary Burrows, who supervises the MSU Urban IPM  program.

Among her credentials is the fact she was the first to discover a sap beetle not previously known to reside in Montana.

What's best for identification, she says, is a live sample of the pest offered to the lab. However, she has worked with a lot of smashed samples as well, and even some dried up nearly beyond recognition.

A lot of her work involves looking through a microscope and trying to match up the sample with the endless collection of bugs maintained at the Montana Entomology Collection.

It also helps if she knows where the pest was found.

Some of her most unusual challenges involved bloody scabs and scrapings sent by those who suspected parasites on their skin.

Often, hobo spiders are sent in by concerned citizens who blame the pest for an infection, although that's wrong, she notes.

For more information and to find out how to submit samples.