Bed bugs are evolving


July 10, 2013

Bed bugs are evolving. For many years, we were able to control them using pyrethroids, but many strains of bed bugs, through natural selection, have developed resistance to pyrethroids. Recent discoveries have identified multiple, gene-regulated mechanisms of resistance — with some strains using more than one. Some affect the exoskeleton, reducing or preventing pyrethroid penetration. Others limit the effect of the pyrethorid at the internal target site.

Regardless of what the specific adaptation might be, one thing is clear: Bed bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to pyrethroids. But PMPs are adapting as well. New products are being developed to combat bed bug resistance, including some that contain nonpyrethroid chemistry to prevent insects from producing energy.

Until recently, insecticide treatments for bed bugs have mostly been reactive — aiming to control an infestation after it has occurred already. This process often begins with an inspection, followed by vacuuming or other mechanical means to remove exposed bed bugs quickly. Then spot and crack-and-crevice treatments are applied using direct-contact and residual insecticides.

While this approach can be effective, it only works once the problem has been identified and is often difficult because of bed bug proliferation. It doesn’t prevent a bed bug outbreak. Taking a more proactive approach can. Instead of dealing with bed bugs after they arrive, proactive treatments work to prevent growth of a new infestation entirely.

It works by splitting treatment areas into likely (primary) areas of bed bug infestation — including the headboard, cleat, mattress, box spring, frame and luggage rack. Then group the less-likely (secondary) areas, such as curtains, outlets, chairs, dressers and baseboards. Then use appropriately labeled, nonpyrethroid materials to treat primary areas every six months and secondary areas every 12 months.
Performing this sort of preventive treatment can:

  • reduce customer complaints, litigation and downtime for hotel rooms;
  • provide an effective and economical treatment option with two applications a year;
  • limit human exposure compared to some curative treatment methods;
  • avoid pyrethroid resistance problems; and
  • help control other pests, including ants and cockroaches.

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