Don’t Sleep with Bedbugs – UPDATE

Bedbugs Spreading to Theaters, Offices, Schools

Source:  Robin Erb, Detroit Free-Press March 4, 2013

They’ve shown up in library books and hitched rides aboard school textbooks and book bags, and health officials continue to field calls from frantic rescue workers and home health care aides as well as school officials, landlords and emergency crews.

Bedbugs — they just won’t go away.

“We’re going to office buildings and banks. … We’ve been to a couple of movie theaters, and we’re going into a medical clinic tonight,” Bob Zoeller, manager of commercial accounts for the Terminix branch covering southeast Michigan/northwest Ohio, said last week.

In fact, metro Detroit Terminix agents had more than 4,800 calls for bedbug extermination last year — the highest in the country, according to the national chain.

 There’s no indication that the spread is slowing, said Erik Foster, an entomologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

That the bugs now are showing up more often in public places is a natural progression of the spreading infestation. Bugs now are well established in homes, nursing homes and hotels and are being transported into restaurants, bus stations, movie theaters and other public places by unwitting residents of the infested homes and their visitors.

Once in a public place, the bugs catch a ride to their new home on coats and handbags and other belongings, Foster and others said.

“(Bedbugs) hitchhike by nature. They don’t have wings and they can’t crawl very fast, but their eggs cling, or they crawl onto clothes you might have. … You bring them home and those eggs hatch in seven to 10 days and away they go,” Zoeller said.

Bob Wilford began the Orion Township-based Presidio Pest Management about a year ago, solely focused on bedbug eradication. Business, he said, has been booming from commercial and residential customers.

“It only takes one pregnant female to get an infestation going,” he said. “If I come in and drop two ants in your kitchen, chances are you’re not going to have an infestation. But with bedbugs, it’s a different story.”

Last month tiny specks — live bedbugs — tumbled from several hardcover mystery books returned in a drop box at the Washington Square branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library.

The books were immediately sealed in plastic bags and the library closed for three business days while specially trained, bedbug-detecting dogs alerted a pest control company to suspicious areas. The next day, industrial-sized heaters warmed the interior air of the library to at least 120 degrees, killing any bedbugs and eggs they might have deposited.

Bedbugs are now part of daily life, said Pamela Blauvelt, vice president of operations at the Kalamazoo-based Griffin Pest Solutions, which treated the library. “We have to get to a point where we’re vigilant and we’re watching. ”

The library also purchased a PackTite, a container that looks like a collapsible cooler and is fitted with devices to heat items such as library books and the bugs inside them to the lethal 120 degrees.

It’s not only good public health practice; it makes business sense, said Terminix’s Zoeller. Officials at several local school districts, community colleges and movie theaters contacted by the Free Press said they’ve talked to pest control experts, trained staff on identifying bedbugs and set up protocols on whom to alert and which pest management company to call.

“Consumers are starting to ask: What are you doing to protect me?” Zoeller said.

Public officials say the bugs are more a pest than a real health hazard. They bite and can cause a painful rash, but they’re not known to carry serious disease.

Still, it’s the creepiness factor that drives consumer demands to make sure public places have protocols in place, Zoeller said.

The bedbugs are drawn to body heat and carbon dioxide that humans emit, he said. “It’s unnerving because they’re feeding while you sleep.”

Getting Rid of Bedbugs

  • Bedbugs can hide just about anywhere, and they can travel along pipes, electrical wiring and other openings to adjacent rooms.
  • To see whether you have them, inspect your bed, furniture and every part of the room. Look for small, dark spots on mattresses and linens.

Once Infestation Is Confirmed

  • Do not apply pesticides with which you will come into direct contact, unless the label says it’s safe to do so. Consult a licensed pest control company for options that are safe for humans.
  • Wash all linens and place them in a dryer to tumble on a high setting for at least 20 minutes. Freezing the bugs for five days also will work.
  • Seal mattresses and pillows with a plastic or hypoallergenic, zippered cover. This will eventually suffocate the bedbugs.
  • Vacuum for bugs and eggs, remove all clutter and seal cracks and crevices in walls and baseboards.
  • Put out sticky tape to catch bugs and monitor the tape.

————————————————————————————————————————

Bedbug Cases Could Triple This Year

July 21, 2011

Bedbug infestations are most common July through September. Infestations were widespread last year, so the bugs are already widely embedded. Bedbugs are difficult to eradicate and can live for a year without feeding. Self-defense: Check for bedbugs in your box spring and on your headboard, as well as bedbug feces, which look like small black dots. If you discover an infestation, call a professional. Your home may have to be treated three or more times over two weeks. Using over-the-counter sprays can make the infestation worse because bugs that are not killed will spread.

Source:  Jeffrey White, research entomologist, BedBugCentral.com, Lawrenceville, NJ

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Don’t Sleep with Bedbugs!

Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite… the bedtime nursery rhyme you may remember from your childhood could now be keeping you awake at night — bedbug infestations are all over the headlines!

Because the powerful pesticide DDT so effectively eradicated them decades ago, bedbugs hadn’t been much of a problem here in the US until recently. But now that DDT (and other pesticides like it) are no longer used and travelers are bringing bedbugs back from areas where these pests remain common, bedbugs are back — with a vengeance. A joint study by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky found that 95% of pest-management professionals have been called in for at least one bedbug infestation in the past year compared with just 25% 10 years ago.

Bedbug Basics

We should start with a bit of bedbug  biology. Each of these tiny critters is about the size and color of an apple seed. They feed on blood, typically at night, while the unknowing “host” is asleep. Their bites are painless, and most people don’t even know they’ve been bitten, Dr. Goddard told me. But others have an allergic reaction that leads to itchy red welts (similar to mosquito bites) that arise a day or so later.

The one bit of good news about bedbugs is that their bites are only annoying. They don’t transmit disease. “Bedbugs are nuisance biters who suck blood,” Dr. Goddard said, although there is a health hazard when a person scratches the bites, breaking the skin, which can lead to infection. (Instead of scratching, soothe the itch with an anti-itch hydrocortisone cream.)

The obvious best bedbug advice is to avoid them. While news reports tell of bedbugs in clothing stores, movie theaters and office buildings, the truth is that for the vast majority of people, the likeliest exposure is still hotels and motels. Dr. Goddard advises that travelers should take a few minutes (it doesn’t take much more than that) to check accommodations before you settle in and get comfortable.

What to do

Place your luggage on a hard surface, away from the bed and any upholstered furniture. Luggage stands and tabletops are good choices, as is the bathroom.

Unmake the bed. Strip off the blankets, sheets and pillowcases so that you can check the mattress and box spring. Examine the crease along the cords that run around the top and bottom of the mattress. Look not only for bugs but also for black specks (signs of their droppings) or reddish-brown ones (signs of blood from engorged insects). These can vary in size and shape, from a pencil tip to a large smear (a sign of a major infestation).

Do a visual check of the room, again looking not only for the bugs but the black or blood-colored evidence that signals their presence. Since most infestations begin within 10 feet of the bed, examine that area especially closely (paying particular attention around and behind the headboard) but also look at baseboards and carpeted areas.

Ask for a different room if you find any signs of bedbugs. Do not accept the room next door because bedbugs are able to travel through unseen openings between rooms.

According to Dr. Goddard, the good news is, if your inspection doesn’t turn up any signs of an infestation, you’re probably safe.

What’s Worse — the Problem or the Solution?

If you or another family member has brought bedbugs home, roll up your sleeves. You’ve got work to do, and Dr. Goddard strongly recommends finding a professional exterminator with experience with bedbugs to help. It’s not a do-it-yourself project — but it’s not one that you can totally outsource either. Here’s how it works:

Before the exterminator can treat your home, you’ll need to remove excess clutter to minimize hiding places. Laundry and soft goods, such as stuffed toys and pillows, should be put into plastic containers that can be sealed. After your home is exterminated, you will need to run these items through a dryer set on high (over 120°F ) for 20 minutes, which will kill the bugs. The clothes do not need to be washed first.

Depending on the treatment, you may need to throw out and replace mattresses, box springs and upholstered furniture. Ask your exterminator whether pesticide can be used on your items.

Once you’ve performed this initial cleanup, the exterminator will come to spray your home (usually several times over a few weeks) with pesticide such as pyrethrins or organic phosphates. While these are all EPA-approved, it’s important to realize that these are toxic chemicals that can negatively impact human health in a number of ways. For instance: Pyrethrins can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, chest pain, difficulty breathing, rash, itching or blisters. To learn more about general and specific dangers of pesticides, contact the EPA’s National Pesticide Information Center, http://npic.orst.edu or 800-858-7378.

Be prepared for the most painful part: The typical price for the pesticide treatment is $1,200 for the first two visits — often more visits are required.

A NonToxic Option

There is a nontoxic treatment — but it is more expensive ($1,500 and up), less effective and, frankly, in most cases impractical. It involves sealing your entire home (doors, windows and any cracks to the outside) and then quickly heating up the entire living space and all its contents to 120°F or higher. What’s the problem with this? As soon as the bedbugs feel the heat, they’ll decamp to pockets where the temperature stays cooler than 120° within the house, and it is extremely difficult to eliminate all such pockets. Also items that can’t tolerate extreme heat (framed photos and artwork) have to be removed — and these can harbor hidden bugs.

Want More Info?

Dr. Goddard suggests visiting the entomology Web site of the University of Kentucky (www.ca.uky.edu/entomology) to learn more. It features detailed images of bedbugs and helpful information on detecting signs of infestation. It’s not exactly bedtime reading… but on the other hand, knowing that you’ve done all that you can to keep bedbugs away will help you sleep all the more soundly, no matter where you are bedding down for the night!

Source:  Jerome Goddard, PhD, associate extension professor, medical and veterinary entomology, department of entomology and plant pathology, Mississippi State University, Starkville, and clinical assistant professor of preventive medicine, The University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jacksonville.

Posted November 8, 2010

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