BED BUGS IN THE NEWS

The EPA’s Second National Bed Bug Summit in Washington, DC

The Environmental Protection Agency hosted the second National Bed Bug Summit (the first of which took place in April of 2009) on February 1-2, 2011 in an attempt to organize a concerted national response to an issue that has caused suffering and financial loss for thousands of American citizens and business owners. Among the summit participants were pest control professionals, scientists and statisticians from various research laboratories, city officials, private bed bug eradication firms, and members of multiple government organizations (including representatives from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

National Bed Bug Summit Agenda

The agenda of the summit was to assess and share all available knowledge pertaining to the bed bug epidemic, introduce new ideas for controlling bed bug infestations in communities, and devise a national strategy for effective bed bug eradication. Leaders in the field discussed the current methods being used to fight infestations at the state, federal, and local levels, as well as possible improvements in bed bug control, prevention, and eradication techniques.

In particular, focus was geared toward methods of controlling bed bug infestations in shared environments such as hotels, school campuses, and public housing units. The group also discussed the importance of educating consumers, business owners, and employees in relevant industries, particularly those related to hospitality. Researchers in the field revealed important bed bug knowledge and discussed future funding requirements for additional research projects. The following information reveals some of the conclusions reached at this year’s National Bed Bug Summit in Washington, DC.

EPA Proposes bed bug Eradication Funding

One of the main issues associated with eradicating and effectively controlling bed bug infestations is the exuberant cost of bed bug eradication services, which can cost business owners and homeowners tens of thousands of dollars per year. However, without the necessary funding to pay for such services, even more money could be lost in unnecessary bed bug lawsuits. Thus, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a bed bug eradication fund, which would allocate grants of up to up to $550,000 to eligible communities (primarily school campuses and public housing units) to cover the cost of bed bug eradication and control.

HUD Announces Community Awareness Plans

On day two of the summit, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revealed plans to promote a bed bug community outreach service that will focus on increasing awareness and educating members of the community. Particularly, the outreach services will be targeted towards property owners, hotel managers, school officials, and public housing unit administrators, and will cover a variety of related criteria including bed bug prevention, recognition, control, and eradication. The outreach program will also inform communities of their possible eligibility for the aforementioned EPA bed bug eradication grants.

EPA Introduces Three New Initiatives

To limit the financial, physical, and sociological impact of the bed bug epidemic, the Environmental Protection Agency introduced three new initiatives at this year’s Bed Bug Summit in Washington, DC:

Educating Consumers about the Importance of Recognizing Bed Bug Infestations Early

Once bed bug infestations become well-rooted within a structure, it can be nearly impossible to completely eradicate the infestation, and control measures are therefore resorted to at this point. However, with early recognition is possible to prevent an infestation from becoming ineradicable. Thus, throughout the summit the EPA has continually stressed the importance of teaching the public how to recognize bed bug infestations early.

Oftentimes, the first telltale sign of a bed bug infestation is the appearance of bed bug bites, which are usually arranged in curved or straight-line patterns (bed bugs tend to feed on the skin as they move along their victim). Officials recommend that anyone that notices such bites on their skin (or the skin of their tenants) should call a bed bug eradication professional immediately to have the structure inspected.

Educating Industry Professionals to Prevent Treatment Resistance

The second day of the summit focused primarily on integrated pest management procedures, which take a proactive multipronged approach to bed bug control by utilizing several prevention and eradication methods simultaneously for higher success rates. Officials and industry specialists are recognizing that bed bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to all forms of chemical treatments, and are therefore more likely to be susceptible to multiple eradication methods at once.

Thus, bed bug eradication professionals are being instructed to treat bed bug infestations more aggressively and urgently. Rather than trying a single treatment and waiting to see if it works, it would be advisable to exhaust multiple treatment options initially, in order to minimize the possibility of a bed bug infestation developing resistance to a particular treatment.

Progressing in the Research and Development of Effective Bed Bug Pesticides

Officials know that at one point in the recent past bed bug infestations had been all but eradicated in the United States. However after small populations of bed bugs became resistant to the main insecticides used to control them (such as deltamethrin), their numbers once again increased to epidemic proportions during the last two decades. According to scientists, bed bugs are capable of acquiring mutations in the nerve cells that effectively block the neurotoxic effects of the insecticides used to paralyze and kill them.

Ultimately, whether or not this bed bug epidemic will be controlled will rely on the development of new effective bed bug pesticides. Thus, another initiative discussed at the summit is the progression (and funding) of research and development related to effective bed bug pesticides. By acquiring funding for studies that reveal the nature of the bed bugs’ resistance to various pesticides, scientists can design new pesticides that may be able to eradicate bed bug infestations completely.

Although the above initiatives were the central components of the Bed Bug Summit agenda, there were a number of presentations and speeches related to other aspects of bed bug control, such as topics related to federal, state, and local legislation, controlling bed bug infestations in large urban areas, and the designated focus and activities of relative agencies.

EPA National Bed Bug Summit

The (EPA) Environmental Protection Agency is finally waking up to the bed bug epidemic in America. They’re taking the issue so seriously that they actually had a summit in Washington, DC area This week (April 13th, 2009). The very first National Bed Bug Summit is being conducted by the EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee.

According to the EPA, the bed bugs infestations in the US are a serious threat to the nation’s health. Their past involvement with bed bugs has only been to outlaw the most effective anti-bed bug chemicals and pesticides.

Summary of the EPA Convention:

EPA Holds First Ever National Bed Bugs Summit

On April 14 and 15, 2009 the EPA held the first ever National Bed Bug Summit. The summit took place over a span of two days in Arlington, Virginia. As with any national summit, this one was a meeting of the minds for all those whose industries are affected by, either directly or indirectly, by the effects of bed bugs throughout the country. Bed bugs have affected a range of communities, so the summit was a perfect way for these sectors to come together and communicate.

One of the main focuses of the EPA’s National Bed Bug Summit was to share information. At the summit, a variety of topics were discussed. The effects of bed bugs on the hospitality and housing industries, the scope of the bed bug problem, why the problem has grown so exponentially in recent years, detection and control methods and tools, future prospects for detection and prevention, and the response of the public health officials to the bed bug epidemic were the main areas of focus. Attendees also had the opportunity to discuss and learn about ideas and options for outreach and education strategies and bed bug management, control, and prevention all the while also having the chance to chime in on recommendations for such issues.

The first ever National Bed Bug Summit was open to a variety of groups to discuss the very serious issues of bed bugs, bed bug bites, and insecticides used to tame the little beasts. The summit’s attendance was comprised of certain industry sectors ranging from housing and hospitality to furniture rental companies to health care and assisted living. The pest management industry also made its presence known with officials and representatives from companies that conduct bed bug treatment and inspections as well as manufacturers of chemicals and technologies used during those treatments. Of course government agencies, academics, extension officials, and IPM practitioners were also present and participating.

Like many other summits held by the EPA, the National Bed Bug Summit was mainly to encourage and inspire discussion among a diverse group of stakeholders affected by bed bugs and to directly address the growing number of problems caused by the recent increase in bed bug infestations throughout the country. The summit not only intended to address such issues but also to develop recommendations on how to deal with them. With careful planning and an efficient agenda, the EPA achieved these goals using EPA-facilitated workgroups.

Tuesday, April 14th, the first day of the Summit, all attendees were sectioned off into ten different workgroups. The workgroups were assigned based on the attendees’ affiliations so that each group had a combination of Federal and state government agencies, public health organizations, universities, and pest control companies. Each group was given the same assignment and five main topics which included research, the role of the government, consumer education and communication, pest control operator education and training, and the role of property owners and managers. All ten workgroups were asked to identify the main factors contributing to the bed bugs problem, identify and discuss possible solutions to that problem, and lay out recommendations based on their findings.

Before meeting on the second day of the Summit, Wednesday, April 15th, the EPA compiled all the findings of the ten workgroups by topic for later discussion and analysis. Then, all attendees reconvened to review each workgroup’s recommendations and findings. This day was comprised of heavy discussion and debate regarding each workgroup’s recommendations. All views and opinions were welcomed and considered.

The EPA’s first National Bed Bugs Summit was extremely successful in achieving its goals to combat the resurgence of the bed bugs issue. The ten workgroups came up with some effective solutions which include but are not limited to design improvements, allergic reactions to bed bugs bites and insecticides, products for humans, resistance, disease transmission, and alternate hosts. Plans and solutions for leveraging existing funding sources to include bed bugs studies and treatments and to demonstrate it as a public health issue were also designed.

Innovative, as well as obvious solutions and recommendations were also made. For instance, all workgroups agreed that all levels of government should collaborate and cooperate on the bed bugs issue in addition to creating a national foundation and an EPA bed bug-specific website to spread awareness. Mentions of Internet-based outreach programs, including popular methods such as podcasts, and public service announcements were introduced. All agreed that mini, sector-specific summits should be considered as well as another National Bed Bug Summit.

For anyone who may have missed the summit and is interested in learning more about the events that took place, the EPA has posted such information on their website. At the EPA’s website interested parties may find the full and final agenda and the public docket including attendance sign-in sheets, public comments submitted to the docket, and public comments received at the summit. Furthermore, a summary of workgroup results in addition to a summary of recommendations developed at the summit can also be found online.

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The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reported that 140 Minneapolis and St. Paul landlords have started a “bed bugs task force”.

Bed bugs are most commonly associated with dirty motels and a classic bedtime rhyme. But they’re finding their way into homes and businesses throughout the Twin Cities area.

Of the 140 landlords, just five say they’ve NOT had issues with the critters. They attribute the major uptick in bed bug reports to a sagging economy (among other factors). People in lower income housing often dig through trash and will bring mattresses found in the garage back to their homes.

Bed bugs can live up to ONE YEAR w/o feeding. This means unless you actively find a solution to the problem, it’s not going to go away.

Turner Pest Control in Jacksonville Florida actually employs a dog to sniff out hiding bed bug dwellings and colonies. The dog, a Jack Russel Terrier, is said to have an accuracy rating of over 90%. It takes the pooch just minutes to hone in on the harbitures. The best thing about Turner’s new employee….you pay it in Pupperonies!

Dogs Used to Detect Bed Bugs

You may have never thought of bed bugs as a public enemy, but Cincinnati.com indicates the issue has made its way to the chambers of the city council.

The problem stems from encounters by the city’s first responders. Police are often called to handle domestic disturbances or other in home emergencies. Bed bugs often infiltrate any equipment police bring with them. While that equipment is stowed in the trunk of the cruiser the bed bugs migrate to the cabin of the cruiser and then onto the clothing worn by the officer. That scenario often introduces bed bugs into the officer’s home.

Similarly firefighters are also encountering a growing trend in transference. When they battle a blaze it is not uncommon for bed bugs to attach themselves to equipment and clothing in order to escape the heat.

According to Cincinnati.com, “Fraternal Order of Police President Kathy Harrell and International Association of Fire Fighters Local 48 President Marc Monahan said it was difficult for them to say how many of their members had come into contact with bed bugs but that anecdotal evidence shows the problem getting worse.”

They further indicate the problem is exacerbated by the fact that first responders often share responsibilities with either more than one precinct or more than one firehouse. This allows problems with bed bugs to transfer to other facilities and by default into other homes.

While the city does provide pest control to the facilities it isn’t always enough. The city council drafted a proposal that would allow city staff to work toward negotiations with local pest control companies to provide reduced rates for pest control at the homes of police and fire department personnel.

To further assist their staff they are also encouraging the use of on-board ‘bug spray’ in city vehicles.

Some suggest similar problems occurs when home health nurses make visits and leave with bed bugs in their clothing and equipment.

Unlike many other insects, bed bugs can live in a dormant state for more than a year. And unlike cockroaches the cleanliness of the home is not a factor in the presence of bed bugs. The presence of body heat and carbon dioxide is all that is needed to create an environment conducive to the presence of bed bugs.

Bed bugs do not feed on waste, but on the blood of a host.

This is the primary reason bed bugs are so adaptable to transference. The size of the bed bug also makes it difficult to detect. Most sources indicate bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed and generally feed at dawn. They extract food through the blood of their host leaving behind welts and bumps. Those affected by the bites may not even be aware of the issue until long after the bedbug has resumed its hiding place in some of the smallest places in the home.

Meanwhile, Hotel & Motel Management announced a new strategy for bedbug management. Hotelmotel.com indicated, “The ThermEx program will be unveiled at the 2008 National Pest Management Association’s annual PestWorld conference.”
While most bedbug solutions rely on chemicals to kill the insects, the ThermEx program relies on; “Research [that] has shown that heat is a more effective method for treating bed bugs rather than residual products. This is due to the bed bugs’ ability to hide in every crack and crevice in a room. Additionally, it is difficult to apply a product that will reach the entire bed bug population and residual products will not affect the eggs. A heat remediation treatment typically only takes 48 hours to eliminate an entire bed bug population while a residual treatment can take up to 12 weeks to work effectively.”

The implication behind this news is not lost on facilities that house large numbers of individuals. Nursing homes, college dorms, homeless shelters and other health related facilities would often find they struggle with bed bugs and the potential of a non-toxic and quick solution may appeal to those who must make decisions affecting their residents.

One of the reasons proponent of the ThermEx system are excited about the idea is that chemical solutions do nothing to eradicate eggs left behind by the dead bed bugs. This new system promises to eliminate the entire bed bug population.

The downside to any potential solution is that bed bugs can be reintroduced to any residential property easily. The reason motels and hotels may be most interested in a more comprehensive solution is that these facilities are often an insect way station for bed bugs. They come and go through the luggage and clothing of guests.

For those who suffer bed bug bites it may take up to nine days to observe the welt and may remind the inflicted of a mosquito bite. And like a mosquito bite the bed bug bite will provide an intense itch in many that suffer a bite. In about half of all bedbug bites no visible evidence of a bite will exist.

Finally Newsday.com has reported that New Jersey Lawmakers are considering a bill designed to make landlords responsible to keep apartments bed bug free.

Newsday.com reports that, “Under the bill, landlords would have to exterminate bedbugs at their own expense when an outbreak occurs. Those who fail to take action could face fines of $300 per infested apartment and $1,000 per infested common area. The measure would also allow local health boards to conduct exterminations and bill unresponsive landlords.”

Landlords protesting the bill indicate that many times the tenants are responsible for bringing bedbugs into what may have been an environment free of the pests.
The pending legislation may provide some of the harshest penalties for landlords who allow the presence of bedbugs on their rental properties.