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Oct 18

Bed Bug Plague: Real or Hype?

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Scientists Believe Bedbug Plague “Real”, Not “Hype”, Reveals Survey by Principal Investigators Association

Naples, FL. Fifty-eight percent of scientists responding to a survey by Principal Investigators Association believe there really is a surge in bedbug infestations. Another 28% think media reports are just spotlighting a problem that was always there. Only 15% of researchers believe that media attention is causing exaggerated, or even false, reports of incidents.

The survey was conducted October 6-12, through the Association’s weekly ezine PI e-Alert, which is emailed to thousands of researchers in all fields of science. The response was voluntary, so the results should be regarded as only “indicative”, not statistically proven, said publisher Leslie Norins, MD, PhD.

Just over half of respondents reported bedbugs afflicted somebody known to them. Of this group, a startling 38% had been affected personally. Another 23% said the insects had troubled their “significant other” or family. The remaining 47% of the group knew of infestation suffered by colleagues or friends.

By far, the two leading sites of personal encounters with bedbugs were “home” (43%) and “hotel” (41%). Dormitories accounted for just 7% and airplanes barely 1%. Fifty-three percent of the scientists were aware of report of bedbug infestations in their neighborhood, town, or state.

Experts and pest control companies are still debating optimal measures to kill and prevent bedbugs. Scientists as a group are equally uncertain. Fumigation was recommended by 19%, chemical powder or spray by 16%, and steam by 15%. “Something else” was the remedy for 49%.

Only half the respondents felt they could identify an insect as a “bedbug” with an accuracy of over 50%.

Because scientists travel a good deal to national meetings, the survey asked if they were now taking any special “bedbug” precautions for such trips. Numerous tactics we reported. Notable were:

  • At hotels, check the sheets and mattress for blood stains (from previous victims) and bug feces. Change hotels if necessary.
  • Keep luggage off floor; hang all clothes in closet
  • In advance, check online travel warning boards for posting of infestation at your contemplated hotel—though it was noted these may not be accurate and are often outdated.

Respondents were invited to note experiences with the bedbug problem. Illustrative incidents from scores submitted include:

  • While interviewing for a faculty position, brought home bedbugs from the high-end hotel where they housed me. We had to dispose of half our belongings, and eradication cost over $18,000.
  • On a trip to Madrid received hundreds of bedbug bites. Developed severe hives affecting eyes and throat. Now travel with “epi” (epinephrine) pen.
  • Most people never suspect. Brought bedbugs home from hotel. Also had to have office treated.
  • Eradication can take 6-8 months. Get rid of mattress. Fumigate. Spray. Dryclean or hot-launder all clothes.
  • Was bitten in New York, Seattle, and Colorado Springs (5-star resort)

Frustration was expressed with lack of official guidelines and “cures”. “Why don’t the NIH, FDA and Department of Agriculture stop chasing third-world diseases and get us effective bedbug prophylaxis and treatment right here in the USA?” Also: “Test hundreds of already-approved compounds for efficacy against bedbugs”. And: “The hysterical DDT ban not only allowed malaria to kill millions, it deprived us of a great agent to aid bedbug control.”

Principal Investigators’ Association is a not-for-profit organization which helps scientists in all fields of research better perform their managerial and administrative duties by providing expert advice and continuing professional education. Topics covered include: preparing better grant applications, optimal management of lab staff, mentoring fellows and students, maintaining research integrity, etc. Dissemination of information is through newsletters, ezines, Webinars, and special reports.

Comments (25)
written by Atomic, October 17, 2010
Had hotel change my room recently; mattress had "rust stains". Pack all clothes in ziplock bags.
written by Dept Chair, October 17, 2010
Wife has made me paranoid about this. Put luggage on table, not on floor. Pack sleepware in plastic bag and wash before returning it to home drawer.
written by Sherlock, October 17, 2010
Immediately upon arrival in hotel room, I look under mattress, pull headboard off wall, check moldings for hidden bugs.
PS: Do not offer any bed in your house to any friend of your kids who just wants to "crash" for a day or two. But may be OK if they bring their own sleep sack.

written by Bugkiller, October 17, 2010

This is a very good resource site on bedbugs
written by Anonymous, October 17, 2010
My mother's whole apt complex was infested, as was the 6-plex my brother-in-law owns.
written by Biomaster, October 17, 2010
I always travel with two large plastic bags. One covers my suitcase completely when I am in a hotel room. The other I use to bring home all clothing from the trip, whoich is laundered or drycleaned before being returned to use.
written by Cautious, October 17, 2010
Don't over-react. Of 15 supposedly infested samples brought to my office for exam, all have been negative.
written by Desparate, October 17, 2010
I have been told that carbon dioxide in high concentrations is lethal for the critters, so I carry several of those cartridgs with me (the kind you use to put fizz in water).
written by Concerned scientist/parent, October 17, 2010
My daughter came home with a bad infestation, which had given her a massive allergic hive-like reaction. In contrast, her roomate had no reaction at all and wasn't even awre there was a problem.
written by Preventer, October 17, 2010
I abandoned my pajamas at the hotel because I didn't have a plastic bag in which to seal them for the return trip home.
written by DemandResponsibility, October 17, 2010
This is sickening. Our science societies take our registration money for their conventions but they do not take measures to inspect the headquarters hotels for bedbugs, and publicize this. I guess they feel we'll be too ashamed to report if we are bitten.See you via teleconference.
written by Ag specialist, October 17, 2010
Attention CityFolk: Don't forget--ticks and ladybugs are not bedbugs!
Public Health Entomologist
written by Richard Pollack, October 18, 2010
There's no doubt that bed bugs have spread far and wide, but the media hype has exaggerated the problem. Most bugs found on the bed are not bed bugs. Even scientists frequently misconstrue innocuous creatures to be something more noxious. Many of the comments submitted also highlight the misconceptions about what should be done to control such an infestation. Educational insight on the biology and management of bed bugs is available at http://identify.us.com. This is provided at no cost and without commercial agenda. Resources are also offered for expert and rapid assistance identifying a pest or digital images of a presumed pest.

Editor's Note: Their Website contains some free information, but these expert scientists may charge $20 or more for specimen examination, plus they may offer consultative services for a fee.
written by Less Global Warming from Fumigants, October 18, 2010
Many don't realize that when fumigation is chosen to eliminate bed bugs, the fumigant is usually Vikane whose active ingredient is Sulfuryl Fluoride. Sulfuryly Fluoride has been shown to have a Global Warming Potential of ~4,800 times that of CO2. In other words, one pound of Sulfuryl Fluoride vented results in the equivalent of 2.4 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. A better fumigation method would be to use methyl bromide COMBINED with emissions control technology for keeping the methyl bromide from ever reaching the atmosphere. There is no known method for emissions control of Sulfuryl Fluoride.
written by Bedbug victim, October 18, 2010
Believe me, when the bugs are biting you, and terrifying your spouse and children,the farthest thing from your mind and tasks is to consult some global warming zealot about the relative CO2 effects of various fumigants. Just wait till they swarm you and see how fast you abandon that Olympus perch.
written by carl abbott, October 19, 2010
Is it true that if one sleeps with the room lights on, the bedbugs stay put and don't come out to bite?
written by Less Global Warming from Fumigants, October 19, 2010
Corporations and individuals have put a lot effort into determining and minimizing their environmental footprint. My comment was merely meant to inform those who care that they have a choice regarding how they solve their bedbug problem and to think that when they fumigate a small volume - say a dormitory room or an office - with 4 lbs of sulfuryl fluoride - that this amount vented into the atmosphere is equal to putting 10 tons (20,000 lbs) of CO2 into the air. To those who do not care about what they do then what difference should having an informed choice make other than to educate the public about the consequences of their actions? The use of fear, scare tactics and name-calling undermines the opposing argument.
written by Infested scientist, October 21, 2010
Dr. "Earth Warming Zealot" implies average citizens or even the average scientist will be running off to the chemical depot to purchase "fumigants of choice", and then apply them. Let's get real! Fumigation with any noxious or hazardous chemical is a job for pest control experts or other professionals. Your "tons of CO2" scare mesage should be directed to them, not to us afflicted with the bedbugs.
Research Associate
written by Once bitten, October 21, 2010
Do you mean that we shouldn't fumigate because it's bad for the environment so it's better for the Earth to just live with an infestation and nightly bites? Vikane, when used properly, is one of the few methods that will kill all live bugs and eggs in one treatment. Do the environmentalists propose to ban it as they have successfully banned so many other pesticides? Environmentalism's war on pesticides is why bedbugs are resurgent.
written by Botanist, October 23, 2010
It is disgraceful that so few entomologists have spoken out on this plague affecting ordinary Americans, and many science peers. Can they take a few moments off malaria and dengue? My regional meeting is in three weeks, and I haven't the faintest idea of what to do or not do. Congress should hold hearings to assure research priorities that make sense!
written by Less Global Warming from Fumigants, October 25, 2010
We have more name calling and again it undermines the quality of the arguments being made. In a debate it does not help your cause if you shoot yourself in the foot but, be my guest.

Who said anything about banning SF? The choice is made by the customer to use MB or SF or ask the applicator which one he is using. If MB is used then he should also use emission controls to ensure the environment isn't damaged. If the customer uses SF then he is bucking a major social trend to minimize the environmental impact - but that is his choice and he is welcome to it.

Who the message is directed to is an interesting gambit for those who think that the Pest Control Industry actually listens to its customers. If they did, MB with emissions controls would be available now since MB is a better fumigant than SF according to the USDA-APHIS who will not allow SF's use on logs because it does not kill all life stages of insects.
written by Tired of Fumigants and "The Warming Fumigator", October 26, 2010
Can we please get the postings back to bedbugs. Dr. Fumigator, find some other Boards to haunt; maybe the Pot debate in California.
People are sick
written by TMO, October 28, 2010
"Less Global Warming" was pushing the incredibly radical idea that, if possible, people should minimize the damage they do to the environment when fumigating. And the reaction? A bunch of vitriol from people incensed that someone has the audacity to encourage others to think about anyone besides themselves. No wonder we have such environmental problems.
written by Less Global Warming from Fumigants, November 09, 2010
Better living through chemistry? and simultaneous protection from bedbugs. DOW thinks so. Any wonder why they don't mention the downside?

How 2 get rid of bed bugs? it's simple!
written by Mike bugskiller, January 05, 2011
Nine days before I was at a beachside cottage. I’d brought my own pillow, but used theirs
for in-between my legs while side-lying. I thinking that pillow could have been the culprit, because the bites are all in places (except the ones on my side) that would “be in contact” (except for the pjs) with it.

Now a week later, I’ve got 3 bites on my abdomen and one on the back of my leg.

How to get rid of bed bugs

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