Living With Bedbugs

Twenty years ago, bed bugs were an obscure pest rarely encountered by residents of the US. Today, bed bugs have resurged, invading human civilization from 5 star hotels to cruise ships, office suites, hospitals, stretch limos, dorm rooms and even public libraries. A question perplexing entomologists is, “Why have bed bugs resurged? What are we doing differently today that perhaps leads to bedbug resurgence? Or have bed bugs changed?” The answers to these questions may be important for policy and management techniques for bed bugs.

Numerous factors have changed in pest control. Health concerns have led to a ban on the indoor use of cholinesterase inhibitors in 2002. Since then, indoor pest control has relied mostly on pyrethroid insecticides and a few other pesticides that have recently been brought to market. Control of cockroaches and ants has moved from baseboard sprays, (that may have had some secondary effect on bed bug populations) to use of baits that have no effect at all on bed bugs.

Entomologists are scrambling to fill the gaps in our knowledge. One line of research is evaluation of agents that are used to control bed bugs. This research has found that many populations of bed bugs are highly resistant to pyrethroid insecticides. Thus, some of the insecticides most commonly used indoors may no longer control bed bugs. A group of entomologists at the University of Kentucky have recently published evidence for high levels of bed bug resistance to common pyrethroid insecticides.

Insecticide resistance appears to be an important factor in bed bug resurgence, but it may not be the only one. Davies and colleagues at Rothamsted in the UK review possible factors in bed bug resurgence and summarize the supporting evidence. Their conclusion is that a silver bullet insecticide or other “cure all” for our bed bug problems is unlikely to emerge. Bed bug control will require new policies and public awareness to slow and control the current epidemic.

Underside of Immature Bed Bug

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an 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, by jjneal, Environment, Health, Pest Management, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Living With Bedbugs

  1. Thomas says:

    I recently visited the Toledo Public Library and when I returned home my wife noticed a BED BUG on my shirt,I know that a lot of men and women go to the Toledo Public Library from the Cherry Street Mission in Toledo.
    What can I,and others, do about getting the Cherry Street Mission to be responsible for this?
    This problem, that the Cherry Street Mission has, with BED BUGS has been publicized for a while then disappeared from the news.I know after reading about BED BUGS that they just don’t “go away”.
    So now I, and others, will have to spend our money on eradicating this terrible infestation while the Cherry Street Mission just keeps spreading this horrific plague.
    Please, what legal grounds do I,and others, have ?

  2. jjneal says:

    A number of libraries have reported problems with bed bugs. The problem may or may not be the neighbors. I suggest that you save the evidence of the bed bug and have it verified. Take your complaint to the public library and to the board that has oversight, or government agency (City Hall? County Council?) who might have oversight.

    Bed bugs are an expensive and difficult problem to eliminate. Perhaps the library needs to adopt a policy against bags and backpacks that could harbor bed bugs? However, the Denver library was infested by a patron with a bed bug infested apartment who checked out books. The bed bugs harbored in the bindings and infested the library through book returns.

    Perhaps a fundraiser or effort for pro-bono pest control at the Mission would be helpful. Social problems such as bed bugs do not remain in isolation. Slowing and stopping the spread often requires community efforts.

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