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Monday, October 25, 2010

Goodnight, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Bed bugs -- they're back! According to a Rutgers University study (February, 2010) bedbugs are "a fast-growing urban pest of significant public health importance in the U.S. and many other countries." (Sid Johnston,  "Office Memo: Bed Bugs Are Back," Forbes, September 5 2010) Richard Pollack, Ph.D, an entomologist at the Harvard School of Public Health agrees. "It's a national problem," says Pollack .They've even moved out of private dwellings and into movie theaters, retail stores, libraries, firehouses and, inevitably, the workplace.Worldwide, bed bugs never went away, but they have become more common in the developed world over the past 10 years.

In a study the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky have released the 2010 Comprehensive Global Bed But Study. The study suggests: "We are on the threshold of a bed bug pandemic,  not just in the United States, but around the world," according to Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA. The survey is based on responses from nearly 1,000 U.S. and international pest management companies. Seventy-six percent of the respondents consider bed bugs to be more difficult to treat than cockroaches, ants or termites. (, Lexington Herald-Leader, August 2010)

Sid Johnson reported, "Earlier this year, Orkin, the Atlanta-based pest control company, conducted a national survey with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and found that 10% of bed bug reports were from commercial properties. At a bed bug conference last year, the Environmental Protection Agency said the incidence of infestation in the U.S. has tripled since 2005." ("Office Memo: Ted Bugs Are Back," Forbes, September 5 2010)  

From a Times Square movie theater to a Denver public library to a Nashville dentist's office, cimex lectularius has been invading places without welcomed invitation. Some think hotels or campuses are the only contact points with bed bugs, but retail stores, offices, schools, nursing homes and cruise ships have all faced bed bug outbreaks. They are not just an urban issue; they can just as easily invade suburban and rural spaces.

Why Are Bed Bugs Back?

Michael Potter, Ph.D., an entomologist at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, believes the explanation for the new storm of bed bugs lies in a perfect storm of these element:

* Increased international travel and immigration

* Greater movement of people in general

* Changes in pest control practices

* Total lack of awareness

* Lack of vigilance

“No one is 100 percent sure why bed bugs are back,” Gangloff-Kaufmanna, a specialist at the Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management program who has studied bed bugs for the past 10 years says. "But one theory is that exterminators are using baits for cockroaches and ants instead of sprays that may have had side effects of keeping down the bed bug population." She also noted that other pesticides that have been taken off the market may have been limiting the bed bug population. (Beth Kormanik, "Bed Bugs Are Back,", September 20 2010)    

“Bed bugs are taboo,” says Gangloff-Kaufmann, . “No one wants to talk about them and no one wants to admit they have them.”

Bedbugs, a common household pest for centuries, all but vanished in the 1940s and '50s with the widespread use of DDT. But DDT was banned in 1972 as too toxic to wildlife, especially birds. Since then, the bugs have developed resistance to chemicals that replaced DDT.

Dealing With Bed Bugs

 John Laumer at Treehugger, covering the various options for dealing with the pests.

* Moving

* Baking them out with heat (113°F (45°C), at which point the bugs die)

* Constant washing

* Multiple (often ineffective) pesticide applications
Laumer says DDT may become "necessary," but strongly refutes the suggestion he's seen in some quarters that "the banning of DDT use ... was somehow responsible for the recent return of the bed bug menace." In fact, he points out, "DDT was banned almost 25 years before bedbugs became resurgent." (Heather Horn, "Bedbugs Take America, America Attempts to Fight Back," The Atlantic Wire, August 18 2010)

Also, exterminators have fewer weapons in their arsenal than they did just a few years ago because of a 1996 Clinton-era law that requires older pesticides to be re-evaluated based on more stringent health standards. The re-evaluations led to the restrictions on propoxur and other pesticides.

For reasons still unknown, bed bugs really seem to love the state of Ohio. The problem became so dire in Cincinnati that some people with infested apartments have resorted to sleeping on the streets. Cincinnati created a Bed bug Remediation Commission in 2007 and is trying to mobilize strategies to control infestations of bed bugs.

In August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a consumer alert about off-label bed bug treatments, warning in particular of the dangers of using outdoor pesticides in homes. The Ohio Department of Agriculture mounted a more unusual response to the crisis: it petitioned the EPA for an exemption to allow in-home use of propoxur, a pesticide and neurotoxin banned in the 1990s out of concern for its effects on children. (Nina Burleigh, "Ohio Turns to Feds for Help in Battle Against Bedbugs," Time, August 18 2010)

Ohio asked the EPA to approve the indoor use of the pesticide propoxur, which the agency considers a probable carcinogen and banned for in-home use in 2007. About 25 other states supported Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption, but the EPA rejected Ohio's propoxur plea in June. "We believe the window
between a safe dose and a dangerous dose for a toddler is very small," says EPA pesticide chief Steven Bradbury. He said the problem is that children crawl on the floor and put their fingers in their mouths.

Meanwhile, many authorities around the country have blamed house fires on people misusing all sorts of highly flammable garden and lawn chemicals to fight bedbugs. Meridith Jessup reports, "Experts also warn that some hardware products — bug bombs, cedar oil and other natural oils — claim to be lethal but merely cause the bugs to scatter out of sight and hide in cracks in walls and floors." ("Anguish': US Grapples With Bedbugs as EPA Limits Options,", August 30 2010)

“Propoxur is not a silver bullet, and given time, bedbugs would likely become resistant to it, too,” said Lyn Garling, an entomologist at Penn State University. However, critics in the pest-control industry say the federal government is overreacting and that professional applicators can work with families to prevent children from being exposed to harmful levels of the chemical, which is more commonly used outside against roaches and crickets..

To treat bed bugs in bedding, people should place the bedding in a dryer for about thirty minutes. Treating the mattress, carpet and other areas is more complicated. People can choose from a number of treatments, including chemical sprays, steaming and flash freezing. Unfortunately, bed bug chemicals only work when they hit a bug directly. There is no lingering or residual effect.

Management at work sites can ask their employees to be vigilant about checking for bed bugs on site, while they travel and in their homes, and also to clear any excess clutter in their workspace. They can post the signs and symptoms of bed bugs in gathering areas such as the company kitchen and on the corporate Intranet.
Brian Baker, social media guru at Aon Corporation says, "When there is an outbreak, transparency and explicit directives are essential. And when bed bugs are discovered and verified, so is a quick and thorough extermination. Call it a 'a pesky version of pandemic planning.'"

Hotels are even employing bed bug-sniffing dogs to diagnose a bed bug problem. They seem to be most useful in larger areas like hotels because they can pinpoint a problem. If the dog hits on one spot, it’s likely the only spot that needs to be treated. If the dog hits on a few spots in the room, it’s probably necessary to treat the whole room. 

Hoteliers searching for other ways to deal with the issue have contacted Protect-A-Bed, which makes bed bug-proof mattress encasements. Protect-A-Bed’s most popular hospitality product is its Allerzip, a six-sided encasement that totally encapsulates the mattress. DiVito said it prevents bugs from getting into the mattress, escaping from the mattress or biting through it. At the same time, it has a porous membrane that still allows the mattress to breathe. Protect-A-Bed also offers storage and disposal bags for transporting infested encasements to the laundry. (, 2010) 

 Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?

Bed bugs are transported in people's clothes and belongings--backpacks, purses, coats and shoes, for example--but not on nails or hair (like lice). Other people then pick them up on their commute to work, from  packages, at furniture outlet locations,or from other workmates or associates.
In the home without a bed or a couch--two of the more predictable spots where bed bugs congregate--they could be just about anywhere -- chairs, carpeting, cubicle walls, bookshelves. They tend to prefer fabrics and wood, but they can be drawn to warmth and end up almost anywhere.

Symptoms of Bites reveals that bed bugs bite and suck blood from humans. They are most active at night and bite any exposed areas of skin while an individual is sleeping. The face, neck, hands, and arms are common sites for bed bug bites. The bite itself is painless and is not noticed. Small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin are the most common sign; redness, swelling, and itching commonly occur. If scratched, the bite areas can become infected. A peculiarity of bed bug bites is the tendency to find several bites lined up in a row.  

Bites from bed bugs can be treated with topical emollients or corticosteroids, or victims can also take an oral antihistamine.Bed bugs have not been conclusively proven to carry infectious microbes. However, researchers have implicated bed bugs as possible vectors of American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease). Chagas is one of the major health problems in South America

Of course, bed bugs they do carry a high emotional base note. 

Bed Bug Tidbits

The pest-control company Terminix last week released a list of the 10 most bedbug-infested U.S. cities:

1. New York
2. Philadelphia
3. Detroit
4. Cincinnati, Ohio
5. Chicago
6. Denver
7. Columbus, Ohio
8. Dayton, Ohio
9. Washington
10. Los Angeles

1. One bed bug can lay 7,000 eggs and multiply quickly.
2. Bed bugs usually drink blood once in about 10 days, though the children feed more often, but at the same time, an adult can live without blood for a year and children for a few months. 
3. A distinct odor in the room will also help a person know that there are numerous bed bugs in the room. 
4. Bed bugs inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant when they bite, preventing people from feeling the bite.

Popular methods trapping bed bugs:

Bed Bugs. National Geographic Channel
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