Bed Bugs Bite Back
By Frank Meek International Technical & Training Director, Orkin, LLC | October 28, 2008
Media outlets ranging from small towns like Madison, Wisc. to national programs including ABC's "Primetime Live" have reported on the re-emergence of this blood-sucking pest. Atlanta-based Orkin, Inc. reports that bed bug service calls jumped 20 percent from 2003 to 2004 - after a 500 percent spike from 2002 to 2003 - and the company treated for beg bug infestations in 43 states in 2004, versus 35 states the previous year.
What is leading to this resurgence? One of the most likely reasons for the uptick in activity is an increase in international travel. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, about 27.8 million foreign visitors came to the United States in fiscal year 2003. By "hitchhiking" on the luggage of unsuspecting travelers, bed bugs can be transported from one place to another quite easily.
Once inside a room, the pests tend to hide out in the seams of mattresses, box springs, hollow posts of beds and under carpet and upholstery. There, females may lay up to 200 eggs, which take roughly six to 17 days to hatch. Adult bed bugs appear about the size of an apple seed and start off looking flat, but fill out as they fill up on the blood of their bite victims.
Another suspected cause for bedbug encroachment is the changing practices in pest management. Since the early 1990s, the pest control industry has moved away from broad-spectrum pesticide applications that and toward a more targeted approach aimed at specific pests. For example, the chemicals used to combat roaches in past decades would have been applied in such a way - and amount - that would likely have suppressed any bed bugs as well. Today, to treat a roach problem, most professionals will use target-specific baits and other more environmentally conscious measures that kill only the roaches.
While there are no direct health threats linked to bed bugs, their ability to bite and cause bloody sores on some human victims makes them a nuisance pest and a potential public relations problem for infested hospitality facilities. Consider that one biting victim successfully sued a motel chain for $382,000 in 2003. In another case a family was forced to tear out all of the carpet and even throw away its clothes due to bed bugs that came home with the family from a hotel stay.
Will spending top-dollar for five-star accommodations keep consumers safe? Unfortunately, when it comes to bed bugs, a high-end hotel that boasts a thorough sanitation program isn't necessarily immune to infestation. That's because sanitation isn't a factor when it comes to bed bugs. In fact, representatives of the National Pest Management Association have said a one-star hotel could be just as susceptible to the bugs as a five-star resort.
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