Pest conferees focus on bed bugs

Lumina News
Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bed bugs dominated talks and presentations at the Carolinas/Mid-Atlantic Summer Conference for the National Pest Management Association held recently at the Holiday Inn Resort in Wrightsville Beach.

Andrea Polanco of the University of Georgia reminded the crowd on Friday, July 29, that the advent of DDT in 1942 eliminated bed bugs from the United States. After DDT was banned in 1972, bed bugs started to return. By 2011, they were back in every state.

Polanco shared research showing that insecticide-resistant strains of bed bugs lived longer than more susceptible strains in most circumstances, but died faster when deprived of food. The longest it took one of her subjects to starve was 135 days, and she disputed the common belief that bed bugs could live up to a year without food.

Jim Fredericks, National Pest Management Association technical director, discussed recent findings of the NPMA Blue Ribbon Bed Bug Task Force. A survey showed 95 percent of pest professionals treating for bed bugs in the last year, and 76 percent said bed bugs were the most difficult pest to control.

On the bright side, Fredericks said, awareness had greatly increased, with 97 percent of Americans recognizing that bed bugs were real, not a nursery rhyme. Unfortunately, that was partly because one in five Americans had come into direct or indirect contact with them, in offices, stores, theaters and hospitals, as well as houses and apartments.

An NPMA word picture showed people's perceptions about bed bugs, with some of the most prominent words being dirty, disgusting, gross, creepy and itchy. However, Fredericks refuted the assumption that the pests were attracted to dirty environments, although dirt and clutter did make them more difficult to eliminate.

He stated that 46 percent of Americans had changed behaviors in some way to control bed bugs, with 29 percent washing new clothing, 27 percent inspecting clothing and luggage after taking trips, 25 percent checking hotel rooms and 16 percent inspecting second-hand furniture. He added that it was a shame that six percent had canceled travel plans, since people didn't need to be afraid of bed bugs, just aware.

Margaret Pfiester-Lehnert of Clemson University discussed research indicating that pregnant female bed bugs were more likely to disperse instead of aggregating with other bed bugs, which implied how single hitchhikers in luggage could spread infestations. She added that spraying alarm pheromones made chemical treatments more effective, although the pheromones were not yet commercially available.

Vendor exhibits lined a corridor and filled a room at the hotel.

One exhibitor, Jeff Vannoy of BASF Pest Control Solutions, talked about the natural products his company sold for pest control, including diatomaceous earth and plant oil sprays. He said orange oil was viscous enough to suffocate some insects, while lemongrass oil was a natural insecticide.

The essential oils were environmentally friendly because they didn't leave any significant residues; because of that, frequent applications might be needed, or they could be mixed with reduced-risk chemicals. Ultimately, he said it was important to combine good training, equipment and products and apply insecticides where bugs are found instead of spraying indiscriminately.

Lee Smith of Rid-A-Pest in Morehead City said that the North Carolina Pest Management Association conferences always included new and interesting information.

"It's a prime time to get new research information," he said, explaining that attendees took what they learned home and used it to serve the public better.

Smith added that Wrightsville Beach was a very family-friendly location. It also helped that it was a central site between Virginia and South Carolina.

Kristin Dodd, past president of the NCPMA, explained that the conference was a joint meeting including about 300 members of NCPMA, the Virginia Pest Management Association and the South Carolina Pest Control Association. Whenever the conference was held at Wrightsville Beach, she said, it was very well attended.