The “pest of the 21st century” is what urban entomologist Michael Potter calls the tiny, blood-sucking pests that are spreading panic across the country. A leading expert on the habits and resurgence of Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug, the University of Kentucky researcher has found that these modern pests are increasingly resistant to pyrethroid insecticides commonly used to control them. Even worse, they are passing this resistance onto their offspring. Already a problem for apartment owners and property managers, a super bed bug is not a welcome thought, particularly with pending state legislation and new municipal regulations getting ready to place the onus for dealing with these problem pests at landlords’ doorsteps.
Bed bugs have been sharing beds with humans for centuries. After World War II, DDT effectively annihilated the pest in America and Western countries, although they continued to flourish in less developed countries. The banning of DDT coupled with the growth of international travel has caused a resurgence of man’s age-old nemesis. Since the 1990s, reported infestations in the U.S. have increased 500%. These insects are now common in all 50 states with infestations regularly reported in apartments, condominiums, hotels, college dormitories, office buildings, hospitals and private homes.
Adept hitchhikers, bed bugs travel into apartments on residents’ clothing, mattresses, furniture and inside packing boxes. Several recent infestations have been traced back to moving vans. Adult bed bugs are reddish brown and about the size of an apple seed, but nymphs and eggs are microscopic. Nuisance pests that feed on human blood, they do not transmit disease; but their bites can cause itchy, red welts, psychosomatic stress and severe allergic reactions. Feeding on sleeping humans at night, they hide in tiny crevices in or near beds between feedings. As an infestation grows, they spread to adjacent units through wall voids, electrical and plumbing conduits and air ducts. Bed bugs can easily be spread through an apartment complex via shared laundry facilities or maintenance workers.
Legally tasked with providing pest control services for tenants, New Jersey apartment owners are being now faced with losing the litigation war on treatment as well. With new pending legislation (New Jersey #A 3203), apartment owners may soon have to bear the responsibility and financial expense of providing housing that is rat, roach and soon to be bed bug-free. While other vermin can be eliminated with proper maintenance and control costs recouped in rent payments, bed bugs are an entirely different problem. Insects of convenience, they are not attracted by food or filth but are brought into apartments by residents. They are as likely to be found in upscale, well-maintained establishments as in tenements.
To date, efforts to combat bed bugs have focused on reactive measures focused on treating the problem after the fact. Cutting-edge technologies at both ends of the temperature spectrum are being used to control insecticide-resistant bugs. New monitoring and trapping products just coming onto the pest control market offer the first opportunity for proactive prevention. A game changer in the fight against bed bugs, monitors are the first 24/7 preventative tool available on the market. Not only could proactive use of bed bug monitors become a powerful tool in protecting property and tenants, but they could turn the tide in the courtroom. In defending against bed bug litigation, regular monitor use could positively influence judges and juries in favor of apartment owners.
Monitors have the potential to alert property managers to the early stages of infestation while they are confined to the bed and bedroom. Early detection can allow property owners to arrange professional extermination of an affected apartment before pests spread. If they are discovered, monitors can determine the effectiveness of treatment and warn of re-infection. Monitoring adjacent apartments can alert property managers to spreading bed bugs, allowing targeted pest control. Early detection and intervention could save apartment owners thousands of dollars in professional pest control costs.
As with any new field, innovative pest control professionals are experimenting with various bed bug monitoring products in the field to determine which are most effective in different situations. U.S. tests and European use indicate that proactive use of monitors has the potential to turn the tide in the bed bug battle. Some of the potentially game-changing products being introduced include:
NightWatch by BioSensory, Inc. uses heat and pheromone lures to attract and trap insects, attracting them with carbon dioxide.
Bug Dome, developed by Silvandersson, an eco-friendly Swedish manufacturer, plugs into any wall outlet, using heat to lure pestsinto replaceable glue traps.
BB Alert Active from MIDMOS, popular in Europe, uses replaceable packets of a blood-mimicking chemical attractant to entice insects into a glue trap.
CDC 3000 by Cimex Science is a discrete, portable, electric monitoring and trapping device the size of a briefcase. Mimicking the presence of a human body, it lures bugs within a six-foot radius, trapping them on sealed slides for counting and documentation, attracting them with carbon dioxide. Safe for use around children and pets, it can be moved from room to room.
Climbup Insect Interceptor by Susan McKnight Inc. is an inexpensive, low-tech device that is placed under bed posts to monitor for a pest presence. Concentric plastic rings coated with slippery talc trap bugs as they climb toward or from a bed.
Bed bug dogs are specially trained to sniff out these difficult to find bugs. Capable of detecting pests within a three-foot radius, dogs quickly target treatment areas or verify treatment success.
Bed bug monitoring can protect apartment owners from law suits, reassure tenants, maintain property values and uphold reputations by enabling owners to certify their properties as pest-free. If they are discovered, monitors can minimize their spread and extermination expense. In the near future, regular use of monitors by purchase, rental or contracted services is expected to become a routine part of apartment maintenance. Bed bug monitors give apartment owners and property managers their first real 24/7 proactive weapon in the growing battle against these awful pests.
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