Faces in the Field: Dr. Jung Kim

by | Sep 14, 2011

In July, the N.C. General Assembly transferred several programs from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Over the coming months, we will highlight some of the people behind those programs as we welcome our new employees. The following post highlights an employee from the Sleep Products Section.

Adult bedbugs can grow to a quarter of an inch long, or about the size of a pen tip.

When you think of bedbugs, you may think of the old nursery rhyme, “Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” For Dr. Jung Kim, an environmental senior specialist in the department’s Sleep Products Section, bedbugs are more than a nursery rhyme. That’s because Kim is the state’s bedbug specialist.

Originally from South Korea, Kim received his doctorate in entomology from the University of California, Riverside, and did his post-doctorate work at Texas A&M University and N.C. State University. For the past three years, Kim has investigated bedbug infestations across the state, educated community groups and professional organizations and contributed to research on Climex lectularius, the human bedbug.

There are more than 100 species of bedbugs, but the human bedbug is the most common type found in North Carolina. American populations became rare with the widespread use of strong insecticides, such as DDT, in the 1950s. Recently, there has been a resurgence of bedbugs, which could be caused by declining pesticide use and increased international travel. Since the 1990s, reports of bedbugs have increased, especially in hotels, dormitories and apartments. As Kim explains in the video below, having a bedbug infestation can be a serious problem.
NOTE: If video doesn’t play, try refreshing browser.


Bedbugs can be difficult, but not impossible, to eradicate. Dr. Kim recommends hiring a professional exterminator to help you eradicate the bugs. One of the most important things to do is make sure your pest management professional is licensed. In North Carolina, a current license issued by our department is required of anyone who performs structural pest control work. When hiring a professional, make sure they offer a variety of treatment methods.

If you attempt to treat the bedbugs yourself, here are some treatment methods provided by Dr. Kim:

  • Sanitation – Reduce clutter and discard unwanted and infested items in a sealed trash bag.
  • Steamer – Steam your mattress, bed frame and other furniture. Keep the nose of the steamer close to the surface.
  • Encasement – Purchase an encasement for your mattress and box spring. Make sure the encasement is completely sealed.
  • Washer/Dryer – Clothing and shoes should be washed in hot water. Other items can be heat treated in the dryer for up to 30 minutes on a high-heat setting.
  • Freezer – You can freeze items for several days. More time will be needed for larger items.
  • Sunlight – Seal small objects, such as books, in a black trash bag and expose them to direct sunlight for a few days. Sunlight also will work if your car is infested. In order to be effective, the internal temperature needs to be around 130 degrees.
  • Insecticides – Apply residual insecticides to the infected area. Be sure to follow the directions on the insecticide’s label very carefully.

North Carolina is one of the only state’s in the nation to have a state bedbug specialist. In addition to bedbugs, Dr. Kim also works with county health officials to inspect mattresses and bedding supplies across the state. You can learn more about the Sleep Products Section on the NCDA&CS website. More information about bedbugs also is available on our website. If you think you have encountered bedbugs, please contact your local health department or the Sleep Products Section at (919) 571-4814.

[UPDATE: Dr. Kim and other employees in the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division worked a booth at BugFest 2011, held Sept. 17 at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. View Dr. Kim’s photos from the event here.]