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Forward Thinking Pest Control

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Forward Thinking Pest Control

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Treating Bedbugs Isn't A Do-It-Yourself Project

If dreaded bedbugs invade, don't make a run for the store pesticide aisle. Bedbugs have developed resistance to almost half of the 300 pesticides listed for their control. And even the pesticides that do work can make infestations harder to beat if they are not applied correctly.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, Florida's surgeon general and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently issued public warnings urging people not to tackle bedbug problems on their own.

Rampant misuse of pesticides in Ohio, New Jersey and New York, where bedbug infestations are skyrocketing, has led to home explosions and illnesses from over-exposure to toxic chemicals.

"What we're trying to do is make sure Florida is aware of those kinds of issues so that people don't do things that are harmful to themselves," says Michael Page, chief of the Bureau of Entomology for the FDACS.

Instead, they advise working with a pest control company with a strategy to eradicate the bugs.

"This pest is not like roaches or flies or fleas, where you can treat once or twice and the problem is gone," Page says.

Largely absent from public dialogue four years ago, bedbugs have become a common pest problem throughout the United States. International travel and the bug's ability to swiftly build resistance to even the toughest pesticides, including banned DDT, has allowed the irritating bugs to spread rapidly. In desperation, homeowners dangerously are setting off multiple bug bombs in their homes or buying outdoor pesticides on the Internet to spray in their bedrooms.

"Typically, in the consumer world, if one is good, two is better and five is really good," says Wayne Walker, senior pest control technician at the University of Florida Department of Housing and Residence Education. "They don't understand the ramifications of over-applying the pesticide."

The problem has become so immense that Congress has held forums to develop a national bedbug strategy and last year considered passing a bill -- the Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite Act -- to fund state inspection of hotels.

Improper use of pesticides can be much worse than a bedbug's bite. Instead of trying to manage infestations alone, which rarely works, people should hire outside help, says Fred Santana, entomologist with the Sarasota County Extension Agency.

SOURCE: www.heraldtribune.com

In desperation, homeowners dangerously are setting off multiple bug bombs in their homes or buying outdoor pesticides on the Internet to spray in their bedrooms.

"Typically, in the consumer world, if one is good, two is better and five is really good," says Wayne Walker, senior pest control technician at the University of Florida Department of Housing and Residence Education. "They don't understand the ramifications of over-applying the pesticide."

The problem has become so immense that Congress has held forums to develop a national bedbug strategy and last year considered passing a bill -- the Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite Act -- to fund state inspection of hotels.

People are downright terrified of bedbugs because of the high cost, the difficulty of treatment and the social stigma. According to a recent survey funded by a major pesticide company, 30 percent of people say they would rather have a root canal than find bedbugs at home. Bedbugs, though icky and annoying, are not known to transmit disease to humans.

Improper use of pesticides can be much worse than a bedbug's bite. Instead of trying to manage infestations alone, which rarely works, people should hire outside help, says Fred Santana, entomologist with the Sarasota County Extension Agency.

It is important, however, to make sure the professionals know what they are doing. Santana says experienced companies will use an integrated approach, combining methods such as heat treatments, fumigation and strategically placed powders.

People should interview three to four companies before settling on one. Ask to see licenses and ask questions about their experience, strategies and pesticide choices.

In other states, unscrupulous or unlicensed companies have put clients at risk by over-using pesticides or using outdoor products indoors, exposing people to chemicals that can cause nerve damage and cancer.

"If there's a least-toxic approach, try the least toxic first," Santana says.

Heat has proven to be one of the best controls. Professionals place special fans or heaters in a room to bring temperatures to at least 113 degrees, hot enough to kill all stages of bedbugs, from adults the size of apple seeds to their nearly invisible eggs.

Most companies inspect for free and provide an estimate, which usually ranges from $500 to $1,500, depending on the size of the house and the level of infestation.

People will need to work with their pest company and follow instructions that range from throwing clothes and sheets in the dryer to packing items in plastic. They also should be prepared to live with the problem for several weeks before the bugs are successfully eliminated, says Cindy Mannes, spokeswoman for Arrow and Hughes exterminators.

"Pest control may have to come back three, four, five times, depending on the infestation," Mannes says. "It can be controlled; it's just not an easy process."

Bedbugs are extraordinarily tough to control and a lot of over-the-counter applications can make problems worse. Many products claim effectiveness, but have only been tested in lab situations.

"It leads the consumer into false beliefs that it will do things that it may not do," Walker says.

Bedbugs are so hard to control because they hide easily in small crevices, develop chemical resistance quickly, their population can explode exponentially in months and they can go long periods without food.

Foggers often make bedbugs disappear from sight, but the insects escape the poison by moving to other rooms or taking refuge behind light switches, picture frames or baseboards. They can travel 15 to 20 feet to feed, so a new hiding spot will not keep them from their sleeping prey. Repellant sprays, such as those containing pyrethrins, have the same scattering effect that in the end makes the problem harder to combat.

Contact sprays can work, but only on those that actually get sprayed. Also, it is not guaranteed that all bugs that come in contact with the spray will actually die. When insects survive a dousing, they produce resistant offspring.

A female bedbug lives six months to a year and lays an average of 500 eggs, at a rate of three to five per day. Eggs hatch in 10 days, with the young reaching sexual maturity 30 to 45 days later.

"They develop resistance really fast because their life-cycle is really fast," Walker says.

Further, a female only mates once and afterward moves several feet away from her original colony.

It only takes one fertilized female to start a full-blown infestation. And that single bug can live for more than six months on just one meal.

"It's a challenge for the pest management industry and if you know it's a challenge for us, what does the homeowner do when he gets ahold of the pesticides?" Walker says.

People resort to extreme measures to eradicate bedbugs because it is a frustrating and demoralizing experience, Walker says.

For many people, the bed is a safety zone, the place where they hid from lightning storms as children.

"Here is an insect that invades that safety zone and feeds on you at night while you sleep," Walker says. "People do some really drastic things to deal with this issue."

Part of the problem is the high cost of treatment. Many people, including minimum-wage hotel and motel workers who are most at risk, cannot afford to pay $500 to $1,500 to get rid of their pests. They either live with the problem and spread it, or try, usually unsuccessfully, to control it themselves. When homeowners do not have the financial means to hire pest control, they should at least consult an bug expert with the county extension service for advice before attacking the problem on their own.

"The solution is they've got to find some cost-effective method of dealing with this insect," Walker says. "Right now there's not a cost-effective method that's available to the general public that is also effective on the bedbugs."

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