Tag Archives: Miami Bed Bug Control

UF/IFAS research: Typical populations of bedbugs can cause harmful blood loss in humans

UF/IFAS research: Typical populations of bedbugs can cause harmful blood loss in humans

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For years, bedbugs have been turning up in sometimes odd and random places, such as subways, movie theaters, dressing rooms and schools, but scientists believed that to flourish, the insects would need more frequent access to human blood meals.

Turns out they don’t.

A new University of Florida study, published online this month by the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology, shows the blood-sucking insects can do much more than survive — they can even thrive — with far less access to human blood than previously believed.

And the news only gets creepier. The three-year study also found that it takes only about 11 weeks for one pair of bedbugs to spawn a large enough population to cause harmful blood loss in a baby, and just under 15 weeks for adult humans. Just 3,500 bedbugs feeding on a single baby or 25,000 on an adult can cause problems.

“By harmful, we mean it’s not killing you, but your body would be stressed,” said Roberto Pereira, a research associate scientist in entomology with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “And when your body is stressed, all sorts of things can go wrong. Your blood volume would be low, your iron levels might be too low, or you might become anemic.”

Pereira and Phil Koehler, a professor of entomology and UF/IFAS faculty member, fed bedbugs in 5- and 15-minute periods and once, three or seven times per week, to see how the populations fared under different feeding conditions. Andrew Taylor, a former UF entomology undergraduate, and Margie Lehnert, a former entomology graduate student, assisted with the project.

Under the researchers’ bedbug-feeding regimens, Koehler said, the populations grew under all conditions – even those bedbugs fed the least often and for the shortest duration, although that group’s numbers grew slowly.

“Basically what we found is that they can live on a diet of weekly snacks,” Pereira said.

The researchers also were surprised to discover that if not controlled, populations of bedbugs large enough to cause humans harm could grow four times more quickly than previously thought, in just an 11- to 15-week span.

After having been nearly eradicated in the U.S., the pests became resurgent in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2011, the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky released a survey of U.S. pest control professionals that found 99 percent of respondents had encountered bedbug infestations in the past year. Before 2000, only 25 percent of the survey’s respondents had encountered the pests.
Koehler and Pereira’s study also found that unless pest control efforts against bedbugs can kill at least 80 percent of a given population, they are not likely to have much success. Pest managers most often use pyrethrins against bedbugs, but bedbugs have grown increasingly resistant.

“Unfortunately, there are very few products that will do that,” Koehler said. “And there is plenty of evidence that many populations of bedbugs in the U.S. are resistant.”

There are some heat treatments that have been successful, but they are labor intensive, time-consuming and expensive, he said.

“One pair of bedbugs can become 35,000 in just 10 weeks if not controlled,” Koehler said. “It’s really a very difficult problem for people.”

Writer
Mickie Anderson, mickiea@ufl.edu

 

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.

 

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Bed Bugs in Clothing Stores

Tips for Bed Bugs in Clothing Stores

As bed bug continue to make a resurgence, they are showing up in more places, including clothing stores. Bed bugs can easily hitch a ride into a store with shoppers. Follow these tips to avoid bed bugs in stores, and reduce your chances of bringing the pest home with you:

  • When trying on clothing, be aware of any stains that seem unusual. These could be telltale blood spots left by feeding bed bugs.
  • Inspect clothing carefully for bed bugs before purchasing. Even if you choose an item from an undisturbed pile, bed bugs could still find their way onto clothing. Pay particular attention to the inside seams, looking for any signs of sticky white eggs, shed skins and the bugs themselves. Notify the store manager immediately if you suspect the clothing displays signs of bed bugs.
  • Check behind dressing room mirrors and any other crevices where bed bugs could hide – even wall sockets – before trying on clothing.
  • Avoid bed bugs in clothes by hanging your items on hooks, rather than lay them across cushioned seats in dressing rooms or on the carpeted floor. These are safe and popular havens for bed bugs.
  • Keep clothing in the store bag, tied and sealed if possible for the trip home. Shake articles out outside before bringing them into the house/apartment.
  • Immediately launder the clothing in hot water or steam/dry clean delicate items.
  • If you suspect a bed bug infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional for an immediate inspection.

Florida Bed Bug Control Company

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.

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