Tag Archives: bed bug control

Will we ever… get rid of bed bugs?

Will we ever… get rid of bed bugs?

By Brooke Borel
Will we ever… get rid of bed bugs?(Copyright: Science Photo Library)

Many countries have seen a surge in infestations of the bloodsucking pest over the past decade. Brooke Borel examines what’s needed to tackle the re-emerging threat.

 

 

Why do we need to sleep?

 

 

Nothing makes the skin crawl more than the idea that tiny bloodsucking bugs could be living in our bedrooms. Around the size of a lentil, the common bed bug*, Cimex lectularius, can drink up to seven times its own weight in blood in one feeding, leave nasty, itchy bumps on their human hosts, and hide unseen for months on end.

Since the late 1990s, the bed bug has become an increasingly common urban nuisance in homes and hotels worldwide. A 2010 survey from the University of Kentucky and the National Pest Management Association found that 95% of US pest control companies had treated a bed bug infestation in the previous year, up from 25% a decade before, and 11% before that. Only last month, New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a resource for other people with bed bug infestations, had to fumigate one of its floors.

According to the survey, the majority of pest control operators from Europe, Africa, Australia and North America said bed bugs were the most difficult insect pest to control, more so than ants, termites and even the formidable cockroach. Another study showed that in London alone, bed bug treatments grew by a quarter each year between 2000 and 2006.

The worst aspect about this is that we thought we had tackled the bed bug problem before. Clive Boase, a pest management consultant in Suffolk and author of the London survey, says that UK bedbug numbers began decreasing in the 1930s, thanks to changes in social housing and public health policies, which led to the demolition of old publicly-funded housing and teams of inspectors checking homes for vermin, respectively. New pesticides introduced in the 1940s, including DDT, also helped to bring numbers down, and by the 1950s infestations were rare. The US saw a similar drop in infestations from the late 1940s onwards, thanks to the advent and widespread use of DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides.

So, where is the chemical cure this time around? Or, is there any relief to be found in the myriad bed bug products and services on the market, from growth regulators to heat treatments?

Fighting resistance

The pesticides currently available, says Dini Miller, an entomologist and bed bug expert from Virginia Tech, are “not practical to use in a widespread way because of the cost.” New, cheaper pesticides are too expensive and time consuming to develop, she adds. Because bed bugs live primarily in the bedroom, chemical companies must provide extensive toxicity data to prove it is safe for indoor use, as it might come into contact with people or pets.

But, proving that a pesticide works and is safe could cost a company up to $256 million over eight to ten years for each active ingredient, according to a 2010 industry study conducted for Crop Life America and the European Crop Protection Association. The investment may not be worth it. The US accounts for over a fifth of the world’s pesticide use, the vast majority of which is used in agriculture, followed by herbicides and then insecticides. Compared to the vast expanse of farmland and orchards, the real estate of all of the apartments and houses in the world combined is small and brings in less money, says Miller. This is especially a problem considering patent protection on a novel ingredient runs out after around 20 years, after which the tech is open to generic competitors.

Even if making a new bed bug insecticide were lucrative, there are other challenges. There is the problem of figuring out how a chemical has to function in order to best kill bed bugs cheaply, efficiently and safely. This requires intimate knowledge of the bed bug’s basic biology. But, because bed bugs were at such low levels for decades, interest in studying them waned. Starting in the early 2000s, once it was clear the resurgence was real and that bed bugs weren’t going anywhere, scientists had to relearn bed bug basics from scratch, starting with fundamental aspects as how to raise them in a lab.

Then there is the problem of paying for the research. While dozens of labs now work on the basic science of bed bugs worldwide, funding remains low in part because bed bugs are not known to spread disease.

Finally, there is the problem of insecticide resistance. Even DDT, the supposed miracle cure, wasn’t immune to this. Five years after the pesticide was in widespread use in the US, DDT-resistant bed bugs popped up in Hawaii; in the 1950s and 1960s, resistant strains were found elsewhere in the US and in Japan, Korea, Iran, Israel and French Guiana, to name a few.

No chemical insecticide is immune to resistance, particularly if it is overused. Today, roughly 90% of bed bugs have a genetic mutation that makes them resistant to pyrethroids, a class of insecticides commonly used for bed bugs that work in a similar way to DDT.

Stopping spread

So, chemicals are not the sole answer. Neither, it seems, are any other options when used alone. “There is no silver bullet,” says Michael Potter, an entomologist from the University of Kentucky. Still, chemicals and other tactics can be used in an integrated pest management strategy, where they are sometimes used sparingly along with heat treatments (bed bugs die at 45C), desiccants such as silica gel and diatomaceous earth that fatally dry the bugs out, or vacuuming and getting rid of clutter.

Biological tactics are emerging as another possible option. Insect growth regulators, or IGRs, are chemicals that prevent bed bugs from completing their lifecycle, stunting their growth so they can’t reproduce. But, IGRs are slow-acting, and the bugs will still bite even if they can’t breed. On the horizon, perhaps, are genetically modified versions of symbiotic bacteria that live in the insect’s gut, including Wolbachia, which may be exploited for pest management. Or, the bugs’ pheromones, which tell them where to go and who to mate with, may also be reengineered and used against them.

In the meantime, public awareness measures can keep bed bugs from spreading. Good practices include: checking hotel room beds before unpacking, being mindful of belongings like a coat draped carelessly on an unknown couch, washing clothing in hot water and vacuuming suitcases after travelling, and avoiding discarded furniture on the street. Some experts also recommend sealing mattresses and box springs in encasements specifically intended to keep away bed bugs, which may make the bed easier to treat and could save it from permanent damage.

These combined efforts have knocked down infestations in some areas, says Boase, particularly among high-end hotels and the rich. Both can afford to throw money at the problem. Right now, he adds, the most severe infestations in the UK are in low-income housing – not because poor people are more apt to get them, but because they are less likely to be able to afford the treatments. The US has a similar problem. Better control will depend on cheaper, more efficient options entering the market.

“I feel that it is possible to bring infestation levels down in that residual housing area, but we don’t have the tools of infrastructure to support it,” says Boase. Then again, he says, “we’ve never had [total] eradication before.” But, with cheaper tools, we may be able to knock bed bug levels back down everywhere. Or at least, he adds, “we love to think we can.”

* Many people write “bedbugs”, but entomologists use two words when describing Cimex lectularius, because it is a “true bug” (Hemiptera). Entomologists always use two words for insects that are true to the common name they have – so for example, house fly is two words because those are actually flies, but butterfly is one word because they aren’t flies.

 

If you would like to comment on this article or anything else you have seen on Future, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

UF Study Reveals Bed Bug Feeding Patterns

UF Study Reveals Bed Bug Feeding Patterns

Researchers at the University of Florida examined the feeding patterns of bed bugs — and the impact they can have on humans’ blood after several months. Their research was published in the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology. Via: PCT

Researchers at the University of Florida examined the feeding patterns of bed bugs — and the impact they can have on humans’ blood after several months. Their research was published in the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology.

The study shows that bed bugs will have a bigger or a smaller bloodmeal depending on when they last fed. For example, if bed bugs are fed every day, they have 1.5 times fewer instances of eating than those only fed occasionally, researchers found.

Researchers also found that production of bed bug eggs is linked with how much blood the bed bugs were able to consume the week prior.

“Longer and more frequent feedings increased egg production, which would allow a faster growth of bed bug populations,” they wrote in the study. “The increase in bed bug populations obtained with more frequent and longer feedings can be the difference between a population that barely survives at a location and a thriving population.”

Researchers conducted their study by letting bed bugs feed on chickens (both chickens and humans are known to be great “feeding hosts” for bed bugs).

Download the article at
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2915.2012.01057.x/abstract.

Tips to keep you bed bug free during school

  • Fully inspect your suitcases prior to re-packing for a return to school, especially if you have traveled during the summer. Be sure that any clothes that may have been previously packed in the suitcase have been washed and dried in hot temperatures .
  • Before putting your sheets on your dormitory bed, inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs.
  • If you are considering bringing “secondhand” furniture to campus, properly inspect it to insure that a pest problem, such as bed bugs, is not the reason for its “secondhand” status. If you see anything suspect, do not bring it to campus.

Visit http://site1.das-group.com/commercial_pest_control/bed-bug-control.asp?type=commercial to learn more about bed bug control

 

Monkeypox Scare is an Important Bed Bug Reminder for Travelers

EMaxHealth.com: Monkeypox Scare is an Important Bed Bug Reminder for Travelers

Last Thursday, health officials tipped off by an overly-concerned mother that her daughter flying-in from Africa may have picked up a contagious disease, placed a 2-hour quarantine on a Delta plane in Chicago. What was presumed to be a possible case of monkey pox evidenced by a rash on the passenger’s skin turned out to be nothing more than probable bed bug bites.

Monkeypox infection appears as a rash that consists of raised, blister-like bumps, and is usually accompanied by fever, headache and lymph node swelling. Bed bug bites, however, can cause a swollen and reddened area that may or may not be itchy, and without the other symptoms of monkeypox.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, monkeypox is a rare and sometimes fatal disease similar to smallpox that occurs primarily in central and western Africa. Monkeypox is contracted through direct contact with infected animals or their bodily fluids, and can spread among humans through fluids and contaminated clothes or bedding.

In this case, potential bed bug-contaminated clothes in the traveler’s luggage may be the endnote for her quarantine ordeal and one that many other travelers will face this summer.

To help prevent bringing bed bugs as unwanted souvenirs from your next trip, the following biology lesson and tips on bed bug removal from your luggage will keep you and your family bed bug free.

Bed Bug Basic Biology

Bed bugs are oval, flattened, brown, and wingless insects approximately 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch long. Young bed bugs are much smaller at approximately 1/16 of an inch when they first hatch and are colorless until they begin feeding. After an adult bed bug has taken a blood meal from an unsuspecting traveler, its color will change from brown to a dark purple-red and will grow in size morphing into a more elongated cigar-like shape. The presence of bed bugs in a hotel room may be noted by fecal spotting consisting of digested blood and skin castings the bugs shed while growing.

Bed bugs are active reproducers and according to one expert if 40 bed bugs are released into a room, their population will reach over 5,000 bugs in 6 months.

Bed Bug Hiding Places

Bed bugs will seek out beds, clothing and other areas where they sense a potential blood meal may be present. However, visually checking a bed before lying down is no guarantee that your bed or room is bug-free as bed bugs have a penchant for hiding in dark, recessed areas such as cracks and crevices in floors, closets, mattresses and…your luggage were clothing is stored. However, while many are tempted to throw out or burn their luggage in cases of suspected bed bug infestation rather than risk bringing it into their home, experts say that such measures are unnecessary as long as precautions are taken.

Bed Bug Precaution Tips

Tip #1: Bag it

Packing your clothes in zip lock bags before embarking on a trip is a good way to keep bed bugs out of your clothing during travel. Furthermore, placing color-sorted soiled clothing back into the zip lock bags before returning home limits the chances that you will deposit bed bugs in your home. Upon returning home, leave your suitcase outside and carry the pre-sorted clothing directly to the clothes washer before opening.

Tip #2: Wash and dry on high

Heat is your friend when it comes to bedbugs. When washing, set the washer and dryer cycles for the hottest settings that the fabric can withstand. If some articles of clothing cannot take high temperatures, consider going to the dry cleaner and let them know about your bed bug concerns with your clothing.

Tip #3: Skip insecticides for elbow grease

Suitcases pose a special problem as they typically do not fit in washers very well and provide lots of crevices for bed bugs to hide in. Spraying with insecticides can be effective, but may also cause staining and leave behind chemical odors that you will not want on your clothing during your next trip. Experts advise hand-washing suitcases outside the house using soap and the hottest water possible. A target temperature of 100°F to 120°F should be sufficient to kill all bed bug life forms from eggs to adults. Use a scrub brush along the seams and folds to ensure that you are getting to hidden bugs.

Tip #4: Heat or freeze

For luggage or other items that cannot be washed, you may want to consider heating or freezing the bed bugs to death. If the item’s materials can handle it and are not easily combustible, some experts recommend placing the items in an oven heated to a temperature of 120-150 degrees Fahrenheit. Some studies have shown that a 2-hour core exposure at 120°F should be considered as a minimum target temperature for heat treatments-the hotter the temperature, the shorter the “baking” time.

Freezing is another option for items that cannot be washed. However, using the home freezer takes longer than baking it in the oven as a minimum of 23°F must be maintained for at least 5 days.

The thing to remember (aside from safety) is that with heating or freezing, the entire item must reach the temperatures and exposure times recommended to ensure all stages of bed bugs and their eggs are being adequately exposed to result in complete extermination.

While following the tips with every trip may seem to be more hassle than the perceived risk of picking up bed bugs at your hotel or resort this summer, consider the cost and inconvenience if your house or apartment were to become home to these unwanted guests.

It’s Bed Bug Awareness Week – Brush Up On Information Before Vacation

It’s Bed Bug Awareness Week – Brush Up On Information Before Vacation

The National Pest Management Association reminds the public to be vigilant about bed bugs

As part of National Pest Management Month, which has been celebrated in April for more than 30 years, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is marking the week of April 22 – 28 as Bed Bug Awareness Week. As people begin to move about more frequently in the warmer months and embark on summer vacations, the NPMA is spreading awareness, promoting public vigilance and providing essential prevention advice about bed bugs.

Bed bugs are still a problem in America. A survey of pest professionals conducted by the NPMA and the University of Kentucky in 2011, found that bed bug encounters have become more common in public places than in previous years; in some cases, the numbers of professionals who reported treating certain types of businesses and commercial facilities saw double digit growth from the prior year,” said Missy Henriksen, NPMA’s vice president of public affairs.

“With summer travel around the corner, NPMA reminds travelers to arm themselves with bed bug knowledge and prevention tips. A watchful eye can go a long way in preventing an infestation upon returning home,” advised Henriksen.

The NPMA recommends the following bed bug prevention tips when traveling:

  • At hotels, pull back sheets and inspect mattress seams, for telltale bed bug stains. Inspect the entire room before unpacking, including sofas and chairs and behind the headboard. Notify management of anything suspect and change rooms or establishments immediately.
  • If you need to change rooms, don’t move to a room adjacent or directly above or below the suspected infestation.
  • Keep suitcases in plastic trash bags or protective covers during your stay to prevent bed bugs from nesting there.
  • When home, inspect suitcases before bringing them into the house and vacuum them before storing.
  • Wash all clothes – even those not worn – in hot water to eliminate any bed bugs and their eggs.

For more information, photos and videos of bed bugs, please visit allthingsbedbugs.org

The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health, food and property

###

 

Avoid Bed Bugs While Traveling

Here are a few tips to help you stay away from the dreaded bed bug while traveling!

  • At hotels, pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. If you see anything suspect, notify management and change rooms/establishments immediately.
  • Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs.  If any pests are spotted, change rooms/establishments immediately.
  • If you do need to change rooms, be sure that you do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation.  Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets. If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.
  • Consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during the duration of your trip to ensure that bed bugs cannot take up residence there prior to departure.
  • After traveling, inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing away. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which will kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home.

Bed Bug Control

NATIONAL PEST MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION REPORTS RESURGENCE IN BEDBUG INFESTATIONS

Bedbugs Infesting Residential and Multifamily Homes, Apartment Complexes, Residence Halls, Hospitals and Hotels

According to the National Pest Management Association, pest control companies are reporting a significant increase in the number of calls regarding bedbug infestations. Renowned hitchhikers, bedbugs catch rides in luggage, shoes, pant hems and any other mobile material.  Although there is no way to determine the actual cause of the resurgence, experts are attributing the increase to several things, which include global travel and the mobility of the pest.

These infestations can be difficult to detect due to the elusive, nocturnal and transient nature of the pest. Although their name suggests otherwise, bedbugs can be found in carpets, peeling wallpaper, light fixtures, and any crack small enough for a thin insect to hide. Bedbug infestations are not a sign of unsanitary or unclean living areas.

Adult bedbugs are about the size and shape of a lentil.  Their color depends on how recently they have eaten.  They turn red after consuming a blood meal and then begin to gradually turn a brownish color. Capable of living up to ten months without a meal, a single bedbug can lay up to 500 eggs in its lifetime.

As bedbugs bite human skin, they inject an anesthetic-like liquid that numbs the skin and allows the pest to bite undisturbed.  In fact, humans don’t usually wake up when they are being bitten; however, they do find themselves scratching circular, red, itchy welts in the morning.

Bedbug infestations should only be treated by trained, licensed professional pest management companies. This is not an infestation that can be treated by do-it-yourself measures.  Professionals know where to look and can offer the most up to date methods of bedbug control.

For more information on other ant species and preventative tips visit

www.pestworld.org and www.bugs.com

Don’t forget to declare your…Insects?

A man crossing into the United States from Mexico forgot to declare his bugs as food at the port of entry. The unidentified driver told agents he forgot to declare the bags as food items. He was given a $175 fine and the insects were seized. Agents sent the bugs to the U.S.  Department of Agriculture where they were identified as a type of stink bug. Pests must be reported when brought into the country because they feed on plants, CBP officials said in a release.

Moral of the story is don’t forget to report pests when crossing the border since they feed on plants!

Checkout the full story

How Hungry Mosquitoes Cool Themselves

NYTimes.com: How Hungry Mosquitoes Cool Themselves

Most blood-sucking insects urinate while they feed so they can avoid filling up on fluid and get more nutrients out of their meal.

But some species of mosquito also do what is called preurination – they excrete drops of freshly ingested blood without extracting any of the nourishing blood cells.

The behavior has always confused scientists because “blood is a very precious resource,” said Claudio R. Lazzari, an entomologist at François Rabelais University in Tours, France. “The risk of taking it is very high.”

New research, conducted by Dr. Lazzari and colleagues and published in the journal Current Biology, shows that the preurine may serve to keep the cold-blooded mosquitoes from overheating while they take their blood meal, which can be as warm as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the host animal.

Roughly one to two minutes after she starts feeding, an Anopheles stephensi mosquito will excrete urine and preurine through the anus, at the end of the abdomen. Sometimes a drop of the fluid will form and cling to the body before falling off; when this happens, some fluid evaporates like sweat and cools the mosquito’s abdomen by almost four degrees.

Mosquitoes also feed on nectar, but they tend not to preurinate when they eat lower-temperature, sugar-based meals.

The mosquito is not the only insect that uses ingested food to regulate its temperature. Aphids excrete honeydew to prevent their abdomens from getting too hot, and some bee species regurgitate a bit of nectar to keep their heads cool while they fly.