Bed Bug Knowledge & Control Strategies Continue to Evolve

EnviroTech Exterminating
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
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Bed Bug Knowledge & Control Strategies Continue to Evolve

     PCT Magazine recently published a bed bug supplement stating that more than 550 professionals seeking bed bug knowledge turned out in September for Bed Bug University’s North American Summit in Chicago.  The event, produced by BedBug Central, featured leading university researchers and drew executives from pest management, hospitality, university, housing authority, and property management fields.
The major take-away: Bed bug knowledge continues to grow, which means evolving strategies for the pest’s prevention and control. Here are some topics covered in this very informative bed bug writeup:

  • Bed bug anxiety
  • Federal involvement
  • Bed bugs without beds
  • Help your client be the hero
  • Early detection hits, misses
  • Cheap and easy monitoring
  • Consider the time factor
  • Sofas, freezing, and follow up
  • Bed bugs on treated surfaces
  • Issues with OTC products
  • Get paid for teaching prevention
  • This low-tech tool rules
  • Inspect everywhere 

Here are the topics covered:

Bed bug anxiety. According to Dr. Caleb Adler, associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, bed bug anxiety can trigger some people with existing psychiatric issues into worse episodes. This can complicate bed bug abatement, as clients may not react to treatment suggestions in a rational manner. Bed bugs make most people anxious, but this won’t cause someone without psychiatric problems to suddenly get them. Be positive and supportive, and assure clients the pests are common and treatable. Pest management professionals might advise clients to talk about their stress with someone… just don’t suggest they see a psychiatrist, advised Adler.

Federal involvement. According to U.S. Congressman Robert J. Dold, the Bed Bug Management, Prevention and Research Act would create a federal task force, declare the pest a vector, require efficacy data for all bed bug treatment products, and provide research grants. Some funds would develop treatment pilot programs in Ohio, New York and another state that could be expanded nationwide. Funding hinges on the super committee’s plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget, but passage is likely if H.R. 967 can be attached to the Farm Bill, said Dold. From a bed bug education standpoint, “we have a lot of work to do.”

Bed bugs without beds. Professionals need options when treating bed bugs in offices, retail stores and public spaces, said Jeff White, technical director, Bed Bug Central. Canines are ideal for initial inspections, but make sure they’ve been trained for these environments and aren’t put off by wiring harnesses and swiveling office chairs. More than one dog may be needed for large spaces and to double-check positive findings. Treat hot spots with steam or freezing. A typical cubicle takes about 30 minutes to treat and surrounding cubicles also must be treated. White has constructed heat chambers inside offices and once converted a board room into a temporary heat unit. Proactive monitoring may require a team approach due to labor costs. Train maintenance staff to use and inspect interception devices and low-profile glue boards.

Help your client be the hero. Bed bugs can damage a client’s brand and reputation. Advise them to take control of the story, before someone else does. By not communicating, they’re part of the problem, said Jill Allread, president of Public Communications. Always put the health and safety of people first, tell the truth, remedy the situation, and respond quickly and responsibly, she said. When people are stressed, educational messages are hard to comprehend, said Cornell University Entomologist Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann. Advise schools, for instance, to tell the public bed bugs have been identified, that they don’t transmit disease, the steps being taken to remedy the situation, and how parents can help prevent re-introductions. “Bed bugs, themselves, are not the crisis,” she said. “It’s the reaction that’s causing the crisis.”

Early detection hits, misses. Early detection is a tenant of sustainable bed bug control. But it’s a lot easier to find large infestations than one or two pests. Dr. Phil Koehler, entomologist, University of Florida, found these early detection methods had limited results: visual inspection, enhanced visual inspection with special glasses, DNA testing (bed bug DNA remains viable a long time so this tool is best for verifying infestations at new accounts), mechanical sniffers, and passive monitors. More effective were canine inspection, as long as the dog was properly trained and handled, interceptor traps, and active monitors. But it is “fairly easy to confuse a bed bug” with active monitors that combine too many cues, said Koehler.

Cheap and easy monitoring. Pitfall traps placed under bed and furniture legs catch foraging bed bugs and are an effective, inexpensive tool. In a 360-unit multi-housing facility with 19 known bed bug infestations, visual inspections identified 17 more infestations and interceptor traps found an additional 26 infestations after one week, said Rutgers University Entomologist Dr. Changlu Wang. Bed bugs are most attracted to red and black pitfall traps, he added. Wang used a trap of dry ice and an inverted dog dish to determine if treatment was successful in a heavily infested vacant apartment. Thirteen days after steaming and pesticide application, 505 bed bugs were collected. Monitors can help determine if a unit needs to be treated again or if bed bugs have been re-introduced, but they can’t tell where pests are coming from or hiding, he said.

Consider the time factor. Detection devices make a pest management professional’s job easier, but monitoring them still takes time. Phil Cooper, CEO of BedBug Central and president of Cooper Pest Solutions in Lawrenceville, N.J., estimated it takes eight minutes to accurately monitor traps under four bed legs. “A quick visual glance doesn’t cut it for a low-level infestation.” Cooper developed a program to train managers of a group home to use and inspect interceptor traps. This enabled them to identify infestations sooner and save $100,000 in bed bug remediation in one year. Pending state legislation could open the door for bed bug prevention and early detection programs, he added.

Sofas, freezing, and follow up. PMPs discussed the pros and cons of bed bug treatment approaches at a stakeholder meeting led by BedBug Central’s White and Yale University Entomologist Dr. Joshua Benoit. Sofas are bed bug havens and difficult to treat. Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure steaming or a heat chamber raises the sofa’s interior temperature to 180°F. Dust inside the framework (not if a sleeper sofa) with diatomaceous earth, which abrades the bed bug’s cuticle causing dehydration. DE works, said Benoit, “but not quickly and not by itself.” Steam has better penetration than freezing with CO2, but freezing uses less moisture so is better for leather upholstery, popcorn ceilings and electronics. Damaging items is inevitable so start with an inconspicuous area first and have clients sign off on mechanical lift chairs, wheelchairs and Sleep Number beds. Follow up bed bug treatment 10 to 14 days after initial service. A serious infestation may require four to six follow up visits; a simple infestation will need one to two.

Bed bugs on treated surfaces. Formulation plays a big role in how insects pick up insecticide. University of Minnesota Entomologist Dr. Stephen Kells exposed bed bugs and German cockroaches to an aerosol formulation of chlorfenapyr and found the cockroaches had nine times more chlorfenapyr inside their bodies than bed bugs, which had nine times more active ingredient on the outside of their bodies. This difference may be a result of grooming by the cockroaches. He also found that, with a particular formulation, bed bugs picked up more active ingredient the longer the chemical was in the environment. Research showed pests picked up six times more chlorfenapyr after walking on a treated surface 24 hours after the insecticide was applied. The insects had 20 times the exposure walking on a month-old treated surface. The slow evaporation of aerosol materials may slow chlorfenapyr release. Bed bugs require time on treated surfaces, said Kells. Don’t assume they’ll pick up enough active ingredient by crossing a one- to two-inch barrier.

Issues with OTC products. PMPs won’t be surprised to find over-the-counter bed bug foggers and some EPA exempt 25b products don’t work. However, clients and tenants may find the research of Ohio State University Entomologist Dr. Susan Jones eye opening. Jones found three consumer fogging products achieved no mortality of pyrethroid-resistant bed bug populations, even when the pests were just feet from the foggers and couldn’t escape the droplets. Even bed bugs susceptible to pyrethroids were unaffected if in harborage, which is typical behavior. Bed bugs treated with botanical oils had less than 35 percent mortality, with nymphs still molting and females laying eggs on treated surfaces. Even at 40 times the recommend usage rate, an extract of Neem seed oil achieved less than 50 percent mortality of bugs that were directly sprayed, with no residual kill.

Get paid for teaching prevention. The ongoing cost of bed bug treatment is unsustainable for multi-unit housing. Instead of walking away from jobs (and people in desperate need) or giving away your expertise, PMPs can get paid for training property management staff and tenants on how to prevent, monitor and remediate bed bugs, said Virginia Tech Entomologist Dr. Dini Miller. She and students developed a program for a women’s shelter, trained managers, and performed tasks themselves to make sure others could perform them. This involved properly vacuuming and discarding bed bug matter; pulling up carpet edges, dusting with a non-pesticide diatomaceous earth, and re-inserting carpet under baseboards; dusting outlets, faceplates, artwork and box springs with DE; encasing mattresses; bagging soft items for the dryer; and installing and inspecting passive monitoring devices. They even built an in-room heat box, which the shelter manager successfully used to treat furniture, books and some electronics.

This low-tech tool rules. The lowly magnifying glass may seem a bit old fashioned but it’s the perfect tool for inspecting passive bed bug monitors. Book lice look very similar to first instar bed bug nymphs, cautioned Wang, who’s also caught spider beetles, grain beetles and pavement ants in these traps.

Inspect everywhere. When bed bug populations get high, it’s not unusual to find bed bugs harboring in kitchen cabinets, under sinks and toilet tanks. PMPs must pay attention to product labels and may need tenants to do more or different prep work

Don’t let Bed bugs take a bite out of you.  If you have a Bedbug issue talk to a professional.  Call EnviroTech Exterminating at (918) 282-7621 today for a free consultation.  We can help!

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