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June 06, 2014

Bed Bugs Affect Even Highly Sanitary Environments

Written by  Ron Harrison, Ph.D.

Bed Bug

Be proactive to prevent infestation - Chicago made a lot of headlines earlier this year for being at the top of a list no city wants to be on: Orkin’s Bed Bug Cities List. And it’s not the first time the Windy City has earned this title. Just like in 2012, Chicago is once again at the top of Orkin’s rankings of the most bed bug-infested cities in the U.S., ranked in order by the number of bed bug treatments performed by Orkin. Los Angeles was second; followed by Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; and Cincinnati.

Bed bug activity is on the rise across the country. At Rollins, Orkin’s parent company, bed bug treatments rose 20 percent in 2013. That’s saying a lot, considering there were a third more treatments performed in 2012 than in 2011. While bed bugs can show up anywhere in America, our survey of the entire country shows that bed bugs are more active in the Midwest and East Coast. Colder weather may be a key reason, and some scientists believe core temperatures and humidity levels inside buildings are also a factor. However, there is no hard answer as to why bed bug populations are significantly higher in certain areas.

Armed and elusive
Fortunately, we do know a lot about these resurgent pests. Bed bugs are nocturnal, prolific breeders that can spread quickly if not detected early. Because they are also great hitchhikers, they can appear in different types of places, from hotel rooms to boardrooms to bathroom changing rooms. Unsuspecting Bed Bugs Affect Even Highly Sanitary Environments Be proactive to prevent infestation human hosts can unknowingly bring them from place to place on their luggage, purses, or other personal belongings. They come out of hiding at night and then disappear into cracks and crevices during the day.

But bed bugs aren’t enticed by the same things as other pests. Other nagging pests like flies, rodents, and cockroaches are attracted to and thrive in dirty places. But even facilities like hospitals that have the most stringent sanitation and cleaning practices can’t deter bed bugs. Bed bugs will seek a blood meal in any environment no matter what the sanitary conditions are, as long as there are humans present, though they typically thrive in areas where there is a an overnight human presence, such as hospitals, hotels, and multifamily residences. Once bed bugs are inside, they can be difficult to treat. In fact, many pest management providers regard them as the toughest pest to control, since they can be resistant to chemicals. In 2013, researchers from the University of Kentucky and Washington State University found that bed bugs produce substances that can destroy the molecular structure of some pesticides. Not only that, but bed bugs also have biological pumps that can remove certain chemicals from their cuticles before their nerves are damaged. The ineffectiveness of traditional products is one of the reasons why the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency recommend an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan to help treat and prevent a bed bug infestation. IPM is a proactive approach to pest management that includes extensive pest monitoring to help identify bed bugs early and reduce dependency on traditional treatments.

Bed Bug Inspection

What to look for
It is important to detect bed bug activity in your business as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t turn into a full-blown infestation. If you work in a hospital, hotel, or multifamily setting where bed bugs are most commonly found, train your staff how to identify bed bugs and establish regular bed bug inspections. If you are in an office building or other facility, be sure educate your employees about the threat of bed bugs when traveling and what to be aware of when coming back to the office. Encourage your employees to consult the HR department if any problems occur at home.

Adult bed bugs are about the size and color of an apple seed; however, because they are not out in the open during the day, they may be difficult to spot. If live bed bugs aren’t found, you can still look for signs that may indicate that bed bugs are present, including small, ink-colored stains or cast skins they leave behind on mattress seams and ceilings, under seat cushions and on baseboards.

Proper identification of the bed bug is essential. While a pest management professional should ultimately identify the pest at hand, teaching your staff and/or employees basic identification skills is also beneficial. In fact, Orkin has been called to multiple hotels where the housekeeping staff has misjudged a piece of lint as a pest. Whether you’re in a hotel or any other type of facility, calling your pest management professional every time a piece of lint is mistaken for a pest can be expensive, so helping your staff learn basic pest identification skills can actually save you money, too.

If activity is spotted in a room inside your facility, take the area out of service immediately and don’t disturb the space any more than you have to. Leave everything in the affected area as is and keep the scene untouched to help isolate the infestation. Experts can help

You can also have a pest management professional regularly inspect your building, too. In addition to visually inspecting for bed bugs, your pest management professional may utilize DNA swabs, carbon dioxide monitors and even specially-trained bed bug-sniffing dogs.

If you haven’t already done so, talk with your pest management provider about implementing a proactive monitoring program and putting together an appropriate action plan to respond to any bed bug sightings. By working with a pest management professional to monitor for and treat bed bugs, you can help quickly and efficiently resolve any issues and decrease the chances of experiencing a severe infestation.

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, Ph.D., is Director of Technical Services for Orkin and an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Contact Dr. Harrison at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.orkincommercial.com for more information.

Last modified on April 05, 2016

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