Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Fly on the Wall: Interview with a Bug Expert

Image of Maj. Elizabeth Foley, a U.S. Air Force entomologist and bug expert, is chief of the force health branch at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Foley, in a makeshift lab, is looking for mosquitos and mosquito larvae in a water sample. (Photo: Air Force Maj. Elizabeth Foley). Maj. Elizabeth Foley, a U.S. Air Force entomologist and bug expert, is chief of the force health branch at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Foley, in a makeshift lab, is looking for mosquitos and mosquito larvae in a water sample. (Photo: Air Force Maj. Elizabeth Foley)

Air Force Maj. Elizabeth Foley, an entomologist and bug expert, is chief of the force health branch at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

In an interview for Bug Week 2023, happening June 10-17, Foley described the role of entomologists across the Military Health System as they work to control diseases carried by bugs, or vectors, that can be transmitted to humans. The entomologists’ work ensures readiness of the military force.

MHS Communications: What are the most important types of work entomologists in the MHS do, whether in the field or a lab?

Foley: Entomologists fill a variety of roles within the services to include research, education, consulting, and contingency operations. In the U.S. Air Force, a contingent of reserve entomologists are responsible for the Department of Defense’s aerial application of pesticides. At the Air Force Research Laboratory, our entomology consult team identifies vectors submitted from bases across the globe and tested for diseases.

The Naval Entomology Center of Excellence provides cutting-edge research on equipment and materiel for the DOD. The U.S. Army conducts research, education and directly supports contingency environments. These are all just a fraction of what each of the services bring to the fight, and they are all extremely valuable. The Armed Forces Pest Management Board is a great joint resource for topics related to entomology and vector management.

MHS Communications: How do entomologists support mission readiness?

Foley: In many locations, vector-borne diseases pose a serious threat to operational missions. In deployed environments, some teams have very specific skills and requirements. If one or two members go down with diseases such as dengue or malaria, it could mean failure for the mission.

Our job as entomologists is to make sure the joint forces are equipped with the knowledge and protective measures to prevent disease. Entomologists directly support deployed locations by assessing the risk of vector-borne disease and providing mitigation strategies for identified threats.

Since there are few entomologists in relation to other career fields, they often act as consultants to a specific theater or area of responsibility. Entomologists are considered the subject matter experts on everything from monkey bites, to venomous snakes, to zoonotic [animal transmission] and insect-borne diseases.

MHS Communications: What are some of the most significant issues of late identified by military entomologists?

Foley: Scientists and entomologists are working on finding better solutions for personal protection. This could be researching new environmentally friendly repellent applications or refining spatial repellent capabilities, which release chemicals into the air to prevent mosquitoes from biting humans within a given space.

It is a big effort. We need to think about the future fight and leaner, more mobile forces. This means we may not have the ability to provide traditional pest management applications. Keeping this in mind, we are working on how to best support and protect the warfighter from these vector-borne diseases.

MHS Communications: What are some of the prime preventive measures—especially if there is no vaccine—other than insecticides, protective clothing, and awareness?

Foley: The reality is we do not have vaccines for most vector-borne diseases. To make matters worse, in deployed locations, we may not even have pesticide capability. In these cases, we rely heavily on personal protection and education.

For example, if we know a particular mosquito is active at dusk and dawn, we can limit our activities during that time. Conversely, if we know the mosquito is a day-biter, we can emphasize the use of repellents and protective clothing. Additionally, we can provide research and pull data prior to arrival at a site, equipping commanders with the knowledge of existing threats.

MHS Communications: What’s on the horizon for DHA entomologists?

Foley: Fortunately, the joint service entomologists have an incredible relationship with each other and the Armed Forces Pest Management Board. I imagine falling under the DHA will only strengthen those relationships as we try to create solutions to common problems for our military and the nation.

You also may be interested in...

Infographic
Jun 1, 2023

Agent of SWAT: Staff Sgt. Cole "Firefly" Optera

Agent of SWAT: Staff Sgt. Cole Optera

Staff Sgt. Cole "Firefly" Optera is a lightning bug. He can communicate with other lightning bugs though a system of flashes. He protects gardens by feeding off larvae, snails, slugs and earthworms! The Special Winged Action Team, or SWAT, is our band of bug ambassadors who want to educate YOU about bugs during Bug Week!

Video
May 24, 2023

MHS Bug Week Maj. Pest Promo 2023

MHS Bug Week Maj Pest 2023

Major Pest is back and he wants you to stay safe from bug bites and bug stings all summer long. If you want to get a head start on the Bug Week fun, visit www.health.mil/bugs.

Video
May 24, 2023

MHS Bug Week Promo 2023

MHS Bug Week Promo 2023

The buzz around town is that Bug Week is coming back in 2023! Follow the Military Health System (@MilitaryHealth) and TRICARE (@TRICARE) social media accounts so that you don't miss out on any Bug Week content starting June 10th.

Video
May 23, 2023

Fleas Can Be Annoying!

MHS Bug Week | Fleas

Prevention is key for protecting you and your pets from the diseases that fleas carry. Learn the tips and tricks to keep the fleas away. Visit www.health.mil/bugs for more information.

Fact Sheet
May 19, 2023

MilTICK

This is a concise, two-page fact sheet that describes the program, provides contact information, and answers frequently asked questions, including tick-removal guidelines.

Infographic
May 19, 2023

Bug Week Facebook Cover Banner

Bug Week

Give your Facebook page a Bug Week spin June 10-17, 2023. Swap out your cover photo with this custom banner.

Infographic
May 19, 2023

Bug Week Kickoff Announcement

Bug Week

Use this graphic on your social platforms to help us kick of Bug Week. Join the fun! We suggesting posting before June 10 and point traffic to www.health.mil/BugWeek!

Infographic
May 19, 2023

Bug Week Twitter Cover Banner

Bug Week

Give your Twitter page a Bug Week spin June 10-17, 2023. Swap out your cover photo with this custom banner.

Infographic
May 19, 2023

Bug Week Screensaver

Bug Week

This screensaver can run on your facility's computer and/or television screens during the week. Contact your local IT department to see how you can include it in the rotation.

Infographic
May 19, 2023

Bug Week Screensaver with Dates (June 10-17)

Bug Week June 10-17

This screensaver can run on your facility's computer and/or television screens during the week. Contact your local IT department to see how you can include it in the rotation.

Publication
May 19, 2023

Bug Week Coloring Pages

.PDF | 1.20 MB

Do you have a cool event planned during Bug Week? Keep kids away from real bugs this summer by printing out these coloring pages to keep them busy as bees!

Publication
May 19, 2023

Can You BEE-Lieve It Template

.PDF | 11.42 MB

People will bug out when they see this fun “Can you BEE-lieve It” template. Add your bug fun facts in this editable PDF to share information with your followers about how to prevent bug-borne illnesses and the medical uses of some bugs. To use this template: Add in your fun fact, save the .ppt as a .png file, and post it on your social media platforms.

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: September 06, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery