10 recent bed bug developments


May 10, 2017

Photo: Dr. Gerald Wegner, BCE-Emeritus

Photo: Dr. Gerald Wegner, BCE-Emeritus

The idea that bed bugs were a flash in the pan and will die out is not proving to be correct. They are here to stay, and are well dispersed throughout the U.S., including small rural areas.

When bed bugs initially appear in a given city, local media outlets pick it up (always looking for new news). They then quickly drop the story to report different news. This gives the public the perspective that bed bugs are no longer a problem.

When pest management professionals (PMPs) take on bed bug work, it increases their business for a few years. Then their total income generated by bed bugs decreases. The number of initial cleanout jobs decreases, but the ongoing preventive work holds steady — particularly in commercial accounts.

As we learn more about eliminating or controlling these insects, new approaches are needed. Here is some pertinent information discovered within the past year or two.

1. Monitors may control small infestations.

In apartments with low numbers of bed bugs (less than 10 visible), it is possible in some situations to eliminate the population using only physical monitors. It’s important to note, however, that in other situations it does not eliminate the infestation. We are talking about using 28 traps per apartment, per Dr. Rick Cooper’s study with Rutgers University.

2. Ants can muck up the system.

In apartment complexes where bed bugs exist, pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) also may be present. The ants can go into the monitors and carry off the captured bed bugs. This can give you a false reading that there are no bed bugs, or fewer than you think.

3. K9s aren’t foolproof.

The bed bug business model has shifted from cleanouts to proactive inspections, including the use of physical monitors and canines trained specifically to locate live bed bugs. As monitors become more effective and we learn where to locate them, the use of dogs becomes less valuable. Currently, however, dogs are still the most effective way to locate a low number of bed bugs in commercial accounts. The effectiveness of a given dog depends on the trainer, the day and the mood of the dog. Therefore, if a dog alerts, do not assume there are live bed bugs unless you then conduct a much more intense inspection and find them.

4. Inspect every inch.

We now know it is absolutely critical to physically go into every apartment in a complex. Huge numbers of bed bugs can be in any apartment and serve as a focal point for other parts of the building.

5. Beware of uncooperative residents.

Consumers are starting to live with bed bugs, sometimes in considerable numbers. In some instances, they cannot afford to pay for control. In other situations, the work they must do to prepare for the treatment influences them to just say, “I will live with them.” In particular, organic chicken farms and low-income housing continue to serve as ground zero for dispersing a plentiful supply of bed bugs.

6. We’re getting better at this.

As an industry, we are becoming much better at bed bug elimination, with fewer required visits.

7. Hotels are getting better at this, too.

The hospitality industry is more aware of what to do, and responds more quickly if any bed bugs are reported. This is making it easier to achieve success in eliminating the bed bugs in a shorter timeframe. On the other hand, there always will be some landlords and other management persons who are not as aware, and let the number of bed bugs build to huge populations.

8. Lawsuits continue to climb.

Photo: ©iStock.com/ErikKarits

Are we so focused on bed bugs that we’ve forgotten about cockroaches?
Photo: ©iStock.com/ErikKarits

Liability cases continue to exist at a higher rate with bed bugs compared to other general household pests. Documentation of what the PMP does, and who refuses the service, has become critical in helping to defend or destroy the credibility of pest management firms involved.

9. Customers’ priorities could be out of whack.

The money spent on bed bug management in part has caused less to be spent on German cockroach populations, which continue to rise. Consider this before you give customers a quote for cockroach control.

10. Resistance is creeping in.

For certain populations of bed bugs, the reality of resistance to certain pesticides is well documented and widespread. Bed bug field chemical-resistant kits are now available, and take on added importance in solving what to select for control — be it heat treatment or simply chemical rotation.

Dr. Austin Frishman, BCE and a PMP Hall of Famer, can be reached at PMPEditor@northcoastmedia.net.


Featured photo: iStock.com/sahilu

Leave A Comment

  1. As usual, the good Doctor is on target. I would also add “new locations where they have not be found before” to the list. As an example, public venues like movie theaters are becoming infested at huge population numbers. This can lead to new sources of populations that “appear” very rapidly, requiring the PMP to be aware of these new sources.

  2. Since the article is about bed bugs (Cimex lectularius), perhaps they should have used an image of this species, rather than it’s tropical cousin Cimex hemipterus.

    1. Joelle Harms says:

      Although the bed bug species was not named in the article, we realize the photo could be confusing. The post now includes a photo of a Cimex lectularius. Thank you for bringing this to our attention and interacting with Pest Management Professional.
      — The Eds