When it comes to bed bugs, Jeff White, technical director of BedBug Central, said the often straightforward process of controlling these pests can be simple, but the journey to understand why we take the steps that we do can be challenging.
At NPMA’s 2016 Global Bed Bug Summit, White paved the way for subsequent speakers by covering bed bug basics. In addition, he provided important takeaways for industry veterans.
White, who has more than 10 years of experience as an entomologist, said what contributes to the U.S. bed bug epidemic is the public’s ignorance. “We’re busy in society and a lot of times if something doesn’t impact us directly, we’re not paying attention to it.” It’s the technician’s job to approach the problem with empathy, but to also know the basics of bed bug biology and behavior to assist in educating the client.
BIOLOGY. Note that bed bugs are about ¼ of an inch, oval-shaped, flat and reddish/brown. Many mistake bed bugs for ticks.
White noted that lab studies have found a bed bug life cycle at 64°F may take 60 days versus 14 days at 82°F.
All stages of bed bugs use blood as a food source, which they can get from humans, dogs and cats, birds and rabbits.
Bite symptoms typically show on exposed skin surfaces and are often in rows and clusters. White cautioned not to use bites to identify the problem. Bed bug bites can look like many other reactions. Studies show many people who are exposed to bed bugs will either show delayed or no symptoms at all. “Not reacting to bed bug bites is the ultimate curse,” White said.
THE SPREAD. Most bed bugs are associated with sleeping areas, which includes couches. White said when developing treat-ment protocols consider the distribution of infestations in an apartment. He stated that not all infestations need the same level of treatment:
- Low: less than 20 bed bugs on an ini- tial service (70 percent of cases)
- Moderate: 21-100 bugs (20 percent)
- High: Over 100 bugs (10 percent)
Most service technicians can control low- level cases with relative ease; the problem is some companies handle high-level infestations the same as low-level ones. “How you handle a low-level infestation from a protocol perspective does not have to be as advanced as a high-level [one],” White said.
The public sees hotel rooms as a hotbed for bed bugs. White, however, reminded PMPs one of the most common infestation sources is used furniture.
INSPECTION AND DETECTION. When PMPs visually inspect for bed bugs, they often can be overlooked, especially in low-level infestations. White recommends a combination of visual inspection and active and passive monitors. To White, interception devices are key.
Under-the-bed-leg interception devices will detect 95 percent of all infestations within two weeks. Next-to-the-bed-leg monitors will detect 80 percent within four weeks. “Take monitors and install them, check them periodically and you’ll find all those infestations that people aren’t reporting,” White said.
TREATMENT. There are many treatment options, and White said there is no “right” way. While heat treatment, fumigation, non-chemical approaches, pesticides and IPM can all work, it’s not about what you use but rather how you use it.
Giving customers a preparation sheet is a debatable approach, but White said consider getting rid of the initial prep sheet altogether. By having residents strip a bed or move around furniture in the room, White said PMPs lose control of the room now that it is configured differently. Instead of requiring residents to prep “just because,” evaluate the infestation first and then make recommendations on what to prepare based upon where the evidence tells you the bugs are hiding.
“Many professionals ask residents to prepare a room to save time, but how much time are you saving when you have a resident do some of these steps?” he asked. “Beyond not saving a lot of time, you are complicating the situation for yourself by having them move furniture around.”
Heat is a great way to treat for bed bugs, but White noted it involves a full day of work, so it can be costly. For companies that take an integrated approach to bed bug control, White said be aware of pesticide resistance. Rotate liquid residuals and choose products that have different active ingredients and modes of action. Combine dual-actives and single-actives with dust products. Also, use a vacuum or steamer and consider mattress encasements and monitors.
The author is an Ohio-based freelancer.