Bed Bugs Continue to Pose Big Problems
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Complaints about bed bugs have significantly increased in Warren
County in 2012 and have remained steady or increased in much of the
Miami Valley this year as pest control specialists search for new
methods of treatment and companies look for new products to
Experts say a lack of effective treatments and the high cost of
available treatments continue to frustrate residents or property
owners who struggle with bed bugs. The 1/4- to 3/8-inch, brown,
oval-shaped bugs are not known to carry disease, but their bites
that feed on blood cause itching and irritation. They can travel on
clothing to move from place to place, and their treatment requires
The Dayton Daily News researched Dayton-area counties to determine
the extent of the bed bugs issue in the area. County health
departments track complaints about bed bugs differently - and some
not at all - so a comparison is impossible.
The Daily News found that:
- In Warren County, complaints in 2012 (25) have already
surpassed the totals for entire years 2010 (12) and 2011 (18).
- Complaints in Miami County rose from 13 in 2010 to 26 in
- Montgomery County began tracking calls in 2010 on a bed bugs
information line. It averaged 45 calls per month for the portion of
2010 it tracked and 33 calls per month in 2011, although officials
said that doesn't necessarily signal a decrease because some
residents might have already determined the county's assistance
line was information only, not an option for inspection or
- The Middletown City Health District received 175 calls in 2010
and 94 in 2011.
- Greene County does not track calls or complaints about bed
- A national survey by the pest control company Terminix ranked
Dayton the country's eighth-most-infested bed bug city in 2010,
although it dropped to 12th in 2011.
"I think people are just more aware," said Dennis Murray,
director of environmental health for the Warren County Combined
Health District. "The counties are doing a better job of educating
for what to look for, but then you have to find some
LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS
Those treatment options can be expensive. A typical chemical
treatment for a two-story, three-bedroom, cape cod-style home is
priced between $500 and $750, said Hank Althaus, president of the
Ohio Pest Management Association and general manager of Scherzinger
Pest Control, which operates in southwest Ohio and northern
A heat treatment in the same home is priced between $2,500 and
$3,500, although pricing varies based on the size of the home or
the infestation. In a heat treatment, a mixture of mobile heaters
fueled by a generator focus temperatures of about 110 to 120
degrees Fahrenheit on an infested area.
Althaus said the lack of progress against bed bugs has led to a
search for new treatments and pesticides.
"The manufacturers are economically driven," he said. "As bed bugs
become a bigger problem, that brings more and more focus on new
products. But we're not there yet."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that
it has seen an increase in interest to produce and test new bed
bugs-controlling products and that several applications are
"currently pending review."
Others said that fear of litigation could keep large companies from
developing new products.
"Because of that, we haven't been able to go to the main chemical
manufacturers and say, 'Please do something,' " said Jay Moran,
president of A-Abel Exterminating
Moran said his company is "still in battle mode" with bed bugs
heading into the year's warmer months.
Althaus said it is generally accepted that bed bugs were not a
problem for many years because stronger pesticides were sold over
the counter. Those stronger products have since been taken off the
market because their ingredients are potentially harmful, which has
led to an increase in bed bugs.
Pest control companies have since proceeded with the products
"With bed bugs, there is no magic bullet," said Jeff Koehl,
director of environmental health for Miami County Public Health.
"You can't order the place to be treated, come back in two weeks
and treat it again and feel confident you've eliminated the
"That works with cockroaches, not with bed bugs."
EFFECT OF BED BUGS
Because the bed bugs cause few physical problems beyond itchy skin,
they don't often lead to hospital visits. Jeff Delahunt, director
of environmental services and dietetics at Children's Medical
Center of Dayton, said the hospital will do a thorough cleaning of
any area where a child brought in for another reason is discovered
to have bed bug bites. The hospital also uses a bed bug-sniffing
Beagle in its attempts to regularly check the hospital.
Delahunt said the effects of bed bugs can often be as mental as
they are physical.
"You can sit in a room and all you do it say 'bed bugs' and you can
see people start to fidget in their chairs and scratch their arms,"
he said. "It can be psychological."
The continuing issue has researchers working to test potential
tools or treatments, including Dr. Susan Jones, an associate
professor of entomology at Ohio State. Jones recently presented a
session on a bed bugs-detecting tool known as Verifi at the
National Pest Management Association Legislative Day in Washington,
Verifi uses chemicals to entice bed bugs into a trap, where
residents can confirm an infestation. It is one of several devices
or pesticides Jones and her group have tested recently while
looking for new answers.
"There is a lot of interest," Jones said of developing new
"But a lot of smaller companies come up with new devices and don't
have the money to do independent testing. It seems like (new
product development) is going to be an ongoing thing."