Bedbug reports have sent people scurrying for relief. Some are
snapping up bug killers targeted at the nighttime marauders. Others
are researching do-it-yourself methods on the Internet. What they
hope to find is a fast, inexpensive fix.
But don't count on it, bedbug experts say. Unfortunately, there is
no easy remedy for most bedbug infestations.
"Even we have a hard time battling them," said Keith Jones,
owner of Archer Pest Control in Mechanicsburg.
Bedbugs are always adapting and constantly becoming immune to
the chemicals that exterminators use, which has led to other
tactics like steaming, heating and even freezing the bug-infested
So why are bedbugs so hard to get rid of?
Largely it's because no single insecticide that's permitted for
indoor use can kill bedbugs, writes entomologist Dini Miller in one
of the fact sheets she's developed for the state of Virginia. The
government limits what kinds of pesticides can be used indoors
because of the potential for harming people and pets, explains
Miller, who also runs the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory
at Virginia Tech.
Bedbugs are hard to treat because they're so good at hiding, she
said. Their hiding places can be many and difficult to pinpoint,
and they often include places that can't be treated with
Bedbugs can move easily, which makes control especially
problematic in shared housing, such as apartment buildings.
Few people know enough about bedbug biology and behavior to
control the pests effectively, said Tim McCoy, a research
technician in Miller's lab. They also don't have access to more
concentrated products and other methods that pros can use.
The products the public can buy - legally, that is - are
minimally effective, McCoy said.
Those same products do nothing for a person's mental health,
which can be shaken by a bedbug infestation discovery.
"Finding out you have bedbugs is devastating and it really
affects your personality and your mind-set," said Rodger Zeiders,
co-owner of Penn Pest in Lower Paxton Twp. "Half the treatment I do
is psychological, calming people down so they're more at ease and
so they understand that it's not the end of the world, it's just a
Think you might have a bedbug problem? Or just want to be
prepared? Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the
National Pest Management Association, as well as Jones and Zeiders
share their bedbug primer:
SEVEN TIPS FOR
KEEPING BEDBUGS OUT
- Inspect anything you bring into your home from a yard sale.
Always question to see whether it came from a bedbug-infested
- Stay away from refurbished mattresses or old couches.
- If you buy a new mattress, transport it yourself. Often the
same trucks used to deliver mattresses are used to haul away old
- Don't pile guests' coats on a bed.
- Inspect your hotel room for bedbugs with special attention paid
to the bed and its mattress and box springs.
- Wash all new clothes as well as clothes worn traveling on a hot
cycle, including dryer, before wearing again or putting in your
- Always keep your possessions, including briefcases and purses,
off the floor even at places like movie theaters and office
- The adults are the size and color of a flat apple seed.
- Bedbugs don't fly or jump - they just crawl.
- They find humans by detecting our carbon dioxide
- Humans won't feel them bite because the bugs inject them with
an anesthetic before they chomp.
- Months can pass before bedbugs need to feed again, although
they prefer to feed every couple days.
- Only dirty places have bedbugs. These pests want to be
where the people are, so the amount of clutter has nothing to do
with it. "It doesn't matter if the environment is dirty or clean,
bedbugs will want to be there if humans are there," Henriksen
- Poor areas are the only ones with bedbugs. Income level
has nothing to do with where bedbugs roam. Both budget hotels and
their luxury counterparts have been victims.
- Bedbugs can transmit disease. "If there is a silver
lining, it's that no research to date has shown that bedbugs
transmit disease," Henriksen said. "They can carry disease, but
they can't transmit it."
Now that you see an infestation there are two things that should
be first on the to-do list.
- Call a professional. A bedbug exterminator can be
expensive, but the exterminator will be even more expensive if the
infestation spreads or grows. So nip it in the bud and prepare to
enjoy the peace of mind that follows, even if that wallet is a bit
- Maintain the normal routine. That's right, go sleep in
that bedbug-infested bed. Sounds scary and like a restless night,
right? It's the only way to ensure the bugs don't spread throughout
You've spotted a little apple seed like bug on your mattress and
a definite itchy bite on your arm. Cue the bedbug freakout. But
before you do, take a moment to stop, breathe and review this list.
Because here are three things you definitely don't want to do.
- Don't abandon the bedroom. Instinct says flee, but logic
says stay. "If you're favorite restaurant closes you will find
another one," Zeiders said. "Bedbugs will, too." Leaving the
bedroom will cause the bedbugs to spread throughout the house as
they hunt for food (aka you), turning a little problem into a big
- Don't throw away the bed. Chances are not all the bedbugs
are living inside the mattress, so throwing that bed away is a lot
of expense with little reward. The bedbugs that are in the mattress
can be scattered throughout the house as you drag the mattress
- Don't release a fogger. The little bomb will kill the ones
in the center of the room, but the ones who live on the outskirts,
like in the walls, will simply scatter throughout the house.
2010 BEDBUGS vs. 2011 bedbugs:
Percentage of pest professionals who have encountered bedbug
infestations in the past year: 95% in 2010, 99% in 2011.
Some of the places they've treated them:
Hotels and motels: 67% in 2010, 80% in 2011
College dorms: 35% in 2010, 54% in 2011
Office buildings: 18% in 2010, 38% in 2011
Schools/day care centers: 10% in 2010, 36% in 2011
Transportation (buses, taxis, trains): 9% in 2010, 18% in
Movie theaters: 5% in 2010, 17% in 2011
Source: National Pest Management Association/University of
Kentucky 2011 Bugs Without Borders Survey