Bed bug infestations on the risePublished 10:56am Tuesday, February 26, 2013
By WILLIAM CRANDELL
Special to Leader Publications
Bed bugs are not a new phenomenon. The disgusting crawlers of the night have plagued mammals and humans since the dawn of mankind. According to a recent in-depth study conducted by the University of Kentucky, bed bugs infested most of the world until the 1940s and ’50s. But new methods of hygiene care and the widespread use of the pesticides, such as DDT, almost eradicated these pests within a few short years. However, they were able to survive in the poorer nations of the world, and many of the pesticides have been ruled harmful by the Environmental Protection Agency.
With increased international and domestic travel, bed bugs are once again making an appearance.
According to Orkin Pest Control, the company has seen a 33 percent boost in bed bug infestations nationally and the state of Michigan ranks 38th in the nation in the number of treated cases.
Mark Sheperdegian, an entomologist with Rose Pest Solutions in Niles, says 2012 was a record year for bed bugs in Southwest Michigan.
“A lot of the reason for the resurgence of bed bugs is because of human behavior,” Sheperdegian said. “We provide excellent places for them to hide and lay eggs. It’s not that a residence has to be dirty or unkempt but, if there are a lot of items in a room, that gives them many places to hide under and that can make them difficult to detect. Who thinks to clean in the crevasses of furniture or cracks in the walls or the linings of their mattresses? They even like to hide in electronics such as TVs and alarm clocks. There are just a lot of places that these bugs love to hide.”
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, bed bugs have a flat oval shaped body that is approximately 4mm long with no wings and are a shiny reddish brown but grow darker in color after a blood meal and can extend their body length up to 7mm when full. They are quite often mistaken for ticks, cockroaches, carpet beetles or other household insects. They cannot fly or jump but can crawl rapidly when necessary and they are the most active at night but are not exclusively nocturnal. Bed bug bites usually look like little red bumps that resemble mosquito bites and are often clustered on the body especially around the face and neck. Quite often the person doesn’t even know that they have been bitten by a bed bug unless they have a small allergic reaction that can normally be treated with an antihistamine. Bed bugs carry no known diseases.
Bed bugs usually enter the home on objects, such as used clothing or used furniture, and are e often are picked up on recent trips where someone has stayed at a motel. Early detection is critical to managing the infestation, and some of the signs that you have bed bugs are small blood spots on mattresses, sandy-like fecal spots where they tend to congregate, tan-colored skins that have been shed near their hiding areas and, of course, bite symptoms.
“One of the biggest problems in detecting bed bugs when an infestation starts is that their eggs are so small, just the size of a pinhead and people just don’t see them until they are everywhere,” Sheperdegian said.
Whose at risk
“Bed bugs are little hitchhikers and anyone can be exposed to them,” Sheperdegian said. “Motel rooms, schools and even taxi cabs are examples of where an exposure may occur. But the outbreaks of bed bugs are inconsistent, and there’s no pattern and no rhyme or reason to the infestations. Everyone of every economic status can be subject to an invasion.”
One of the most effective and interesting ways of detecting bed bugs is the use of dogs but they are hard to find in this area, Sheperdegian said.
A study conducted by the National Center for Healthy Housing found that dogs are more effective and quicker in detecting bed bugs than their human counterparts. The study discovered the canines have a 98 percent success rate in detecting the pests and was excellent for early detection and for confirming that an infestation had been eradicated.
According to the University of Kentucky, study treatment for bed bugs may require a combination of methods that could include pesticides and nonpesticide approaches. Bagging mattresses and vacuuming the insects may appear to work for a short time, but vacuums tend to miss the adhesive eggs and there is no guarantee they are only residing in the mattress. Many of the new bug strains have become resistant to pesticides so heating an environment to 120 degrees is recommended. The best solution is to contact a professional to conduct an evaluation.
Even though there has not been a major breakthrough in the treatment of bed bugs, some companies are claiming to have over-the-counter quick solutions: But they do not work. According to Sherperdegian, the Federal Trade Commission has begun to investigate these claims and hold accountable companies that market these new products.
“Many of the residents of poorer communities tend to try and fix this problem themselves by buying these over-the-counter products,” Sherperdegian said. “The fact is many cannot afford an expensive treatment and end up making the infestation worse by trying to do it themselves. The only effective way to treat an outbreak is to call in a professional while the problem is still manageable.”