THE BED BUG RESURGENCE
Bed bugs attack us when we least expect, often during the deepest part of our nightly slumbers. They leave us with itching and swollen bite marks, and rusty red spots on our sheets. Sleeping with blood-sucking bugs was something our ancestors were probably quite accustomed to. For those of us living in modern society, though, this co-habitation seems a new and rather unappealing prospect. Bed bugs have been nearly absent from developed countries for the last 30 years, thanks largely to the effectiveness of long-lasting insecticides – products like DDT that were used extensively during the period around World War II.
They’re back. In recent years, airline routes have shrunk the planet to the point that every single bug in the world lives within a twenty-four hour flight of New York City. Additionally, the regulatory loss of long-lasting insecticides, has allowed the once ubiquitous bed bug to make a significant comeback. With the number of sightings in the United States doubling every year, bed bugs are again proving to be a difficult and not so uncommon pest. Their resurgence has caused considerable consternation, and the media has provided plenty of coverage – from color photos of bite mark patterns, to documenting difficult eradication measures, to front page tales of some very hefty lawsuits.
The facts – Bed Bug Biology
Bed bugs, as the name implies, are commonly associated with areas where we sleep. These insects lay dormant during daylight hours in small cracks and crevices, coming out at night to feed on blood. Bedbugs often hide near bedding areas, but can move more than 100 feet to obtain a blood meal. Peak activity occurs between midnight and 7:00 a.m. The bite of a bedbug is painless, but approximately 50% to 70% of people develop an allergic reaction to the saliva injected by the bugs as they feed. The reaction usually results in red swollen and itchy skin.
Adult bed bugs measure only an eighth of an inch in length, and are reddish-brown in color, with oval-shaped and flattened bodies. The immature nymphs resemble the adults but are smaller and lighter in color. Nymphs must molt five times before maturing and require a blood meal between each molt. Females can lay about five eggs a day and up to five hundred in a lifetime. The eggs are white, very small (1/32”), and are deposited one by one in cracks and on rough surfaces where they are secured with a sticky glue-like substance. Eggs take seven to ten days to hatch. Without the aid of magnification, newly hatched nymphs are hard to see, and they are small enough to crawl through the stitching hole in a mattress. Development progresses from egg to adult in 30-60 days, under normal conditions (it can take much longer if adequate food is not available). If a blood host is not found, newly molted nymphs can survive close to two months, and adults can survive for an entire year without feeding.
Bed Bug Control
Control of the bed bug is one of the most difficult challenges facing the pest control industry today. In the absence of long-lasting pesticides that are effective against bed bugs, pest controllers are forced to rely on new treatment techniques and technologies, and some old-fashioned problem-solving skills. Proper bed bug control must always start with a detailed inspection. Bed bugs will hide where you would least expect – and, for the most part, only a trained professional will be successful in finding them. The remaining components of an effective bed bug treatment include the physical removal of live bugs with a vacuum-chambered device, sealing the mattress and box spring in bug-proof encasements, and the application of targeted residual and contact insecticides. Follow-up visits are also crucial and should be scheduled at intervals that match the hatching patterns of new bed bugs The nymphs emerge from eggs after seven to ten days, and will actively feed every ten to fourteen days. It is imperative that follow-up treatments be spaced ten to fourteen days apart in order to eradicate both new hatchlings and any other bedbugs that were dormant in hiding places during the previous treatment.
The media often portrays that bed bug control is a losing battle. It needn’t be. Quick detection, a thorough inspection, and properly-timed treatments can ensure that your residents are once again able to “sleep tight.”
BED BUG TIP: Ummm… We don’t really have one. Lots of people will tell you that they have bed bug prevention tips, but we don’t believe them. There is no magic bullet. Okay, here’s a tip (sort of)… if you find out you do have bed bugs – get them treated QUICKLY. If just a single pregnant bed bug is left in your untreated home, four months later you’ll have 9,600 of them. At the five month mark you’ll have 31,500.