Bed Bug Control-Going to the Dogs

Bed bugs problems are growing exponentially in the US. In 2004, there were fewer than 200 reports per year of bed bugs. Today, that number is over 10,000 per year and growing. Bed bug detection is difficult because the bed bugs hide in cracks and crevices during the day and emerge to feed only at night. Inspecting large apartment buildings or hotels and motels can be very time consuming.

Build a better bed bug trap and the world will beat a path to their door (apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson). Unfortunately we do not have traps that are adequate to the task of bed bug surveying. One way to detect bed bugs is to train dogs to detect bed bugs. Dog training is expensive and time consuming. Trained dogs are quite valuable and can generate a lot of income for their services. One bed bug sniffing dog, Roscoe, even has a Facebook Page. Roscoe has many admirers who appreciate his efforts to eliminate bed bugs from their lives.

Dogs are not without controversy. The accuracy of their findings becomes important. In Condos or Apartments, bed bug detection by a dog can trigger expensive treatments. In some instances, disputes have arisen over the need to treat. How the dog is trained and handled can impact the accuracy of the dog. Well trained dogs with expert handlers can achieve over 90 percent accuracy. Like any crisis (and bed bugs are a current crisis) quality can suffer during efforts to increase the quantity of the response. The demand for bed bug sniffing dogs has greatly increased. This opens the door for people to cut corners and use dogs and handlers that are less than well trained or even fraudulent.

To ensure quality of bed bug sniffing dogs, there is a certification program NESDCA administered by dog trainers and pest control professionals. The certification is voluntary, but could be important if disputes escalate to the legal system.

A well trained bed bug dog can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of bed bug detection. Like any activity, quality control is important.

Roscoe, the Bed Bug Dog
Facebook Photo

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Bed Bugs, Pest Management. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Bed Bug Control-Going to the Dogs

  1. Danielle Frederick says:

    I can not believe that training dogs to detect bed bugs is even becoming an option for this problem. With all the technological advances that we have come across in today’s world I find it hard to believe that someone can not make a machine that detects bed bugs easily and efficiently. Although it seems like the dogs will be successful in detection, it sounds like it will take a lot of hard work to train them and quit costly to use them. Its so disgusting to think about how many bed bugs are truly out there. I would think that someone with the ability and time to produce a bed bug machine would be just as disgusted as me and therefore create a machine very soon so that we will not have to result to training dogs.

  2. Brandon says:

    I am not saying that I like bed bugs; quite the opposite, in fact. What I do wonder, however, is if we as Americans are blowing the problem somewhat out of proportion. I don’t believe the bed bug problem is recieving nearly as much attention in Europe, even though it is growing there as well. We might just need to get comfortable with the truth that insects are in the world around us, as much as we would like to keep them out, and that traveling just might mean coming in contact with these pests.

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  5. How much of a help are bed bug tracking dgs in stopping bed bug infestations? Thanks in advance! – Sandy

    • browny says:

      One of the difficulties in controlling bed bugs is knowing whether or not they are present. If you treat to eliminate bed bugs, are they all gone or still there?

      Bedbugs hide. They don’t want to be found. Any technique that can help detect bed bugs is useful. Dogs are extremely sensitive and a properly trained dog can be very effective. Less well trained dogs are less effective. Dogs can find infestations that are otherwise missed. However, there are places that dogs cannot go, such as behind pictures on the wall. Dogs are useful, but other detection is also needed.

  6. Pingback: Living With Bed Bugs | Living With Insects Blog

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