Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Keeping up with bed bugs

I know I've posted a lot about bed bugs over the past year or so, and some of you may be wondering what all the hype is about. Bed bugs are in Texas and are growing in importance, but based on showing of hands at CEU conferences, it's still the minority of pest control companies who have experience with this pest in our state. That will change, I believe.

At last month's (very successful, by the way) school IPM coordinator's conference (more to come on that) I got to spend some time with Bobby Corrigan, the rodent expert coordinating New York city's rat control program. Bobby believes that were it not for bed bugs, the pest control industry would be in a heap of hurt in the Big Apple. Bed bug problems have provided business despite the economic downturn and dropoff in some other pest business there.

Bobby also recommended a website on bed bugs as one of the best. New York vs. Bed Bugs is a bed bug statisticsgrassroots advocacy movement that has created what is considered one of the premier online sites for information about bed bugs. Statistics on bed bug complaints to the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development tell an amazing story. Since the first logged complaints (2) in 2003, the annual number of complaints has risen to over 9,000 a year. According to one lawyer quoted on the site, "Most residential buildings in New York City have had bedbugs."

These guys know their bed bugs. The site is built a little differently than most educational sites. In the form of a blog, it can be a little confusing at first glance. A good place to start (at least for a technically oriented person like me) is the Resources tab. This tab provides links to a huge variety of topics, including research reports on bed bugs. One unusual resource I found here that might prove useful in educating customers is a Spanish-language video from Virginia Tech University. It's very simply delivered advice on basic do's and don'ts for apartment dwellers who encounter bed bugs. In fact there are several Spanish language resources on the site.

Oh, and if you're from Chicago area, Chicago has its own version of this site at

Another resource I recently discovered is a nice publication from Cornell University with the daunting title, "Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Bed Bugs in Shelters and Group Living Facilities". It seems to be very practically oriented and should answer many of the common customer questions such as, "how do I move and leave bed bugs behind?" It also includes many useful one-pagers such as "room preparation checklist for bed bugs".

Finally, I was pleased to learn that one of the resources I plugged about a year ago has been doing well. So well that Susan McKnight's bed bug interceptor is now being sold on Amazon. The bed bug interceptor is a trap that you install under the posts of your bed. Unlike the more Wang et al. bed bug trapexpensive, high-tech traps like Nightwatch and the CDC 3000, the Interceptor is simple in concept and use.

Using a similar low-tech approach, as reported in NYCvsBB, Changlu Wang and colleagues published some research this year in the Journal of Economic Entomology that describes a simple but effective bed bug trap made with materials available at your local hardware store. It turns our that a little dry ice in a Starbucks mug, a cheap chemical hand-warmer, and an upside-down dog food dish can prove an irresistible attraction to sneaky bed bugs. Rarely do you find a peer-reviewed scientific paper with practical information that you can immediately put to use in your pest control business. How about providing a service to hotels or apartment complexes, surveying vacant units for bed bugs?

You may be yawning and saying "ho hum", we don't do much bed bug work in Texas. But my advice is to bookmark some of these resources. You may need them some day.

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