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Expert Opinion

Bed Bug Belligerent Biology

By Dr. Stuart Mitchell

Found globally, the Bed bug's belligerent biology allows infestations to become common within hotels, multiple-unit housing, single-family homes, and many other structures and facilities. Regrettably, Bed bugs disproportionately affect residents of low-income housing. Intimately associated with human habitation, Bed bugs find refuge within almost any crack or crevice. Emerging at night, Bed bugs indiscriminately host-search for a blood meal.

With simple antennae and clearly visible legs, adult Bed bugs are 6 mm, flattened-unfed (top to bottom), oval shaped, and reddish brown (changing to dark mahogany after recently feeding). Wing buds are visible at the front of the abdomen.

Bed bugs mate off the host. A Bed bug female can place/attach up to 200 eggs within micro-structural areas at a rate of four to five per day. Environmental temperatures must remain above 10°C to 13°C (50°F to 55°F) for emergence. Emergent nymphs resemble adults and develop through five molts. Maturation time required is a few weeks to several months (average about 4 months) depending upon temperature and host availability. Several generations per year are possible.

Nymphs feed upon human and companion animal blood. Feeding generally takes 10 minutes. Heavy infestations cause a characteristic smell resulting from a combination of feces and scent gland secretions. In a single feeding, Bed bugs can ingest blood up to seven times their body weight. Prolonged periods of not feeding may occur.

Bed bugs are understood not to vector disease pathogens, although ongoing research continues. Research does indicate that Bed bugs are capable of carrying pathogens. Currently, the greatest public heath nuisance resulting from Bed bugs is cimicosis (ongoing and repetitive bites). Bed bugs are suggested to lower social standards within an area of infested structures (inhabitants are tempted to move away or relocate to avoid infestations and the associated stigma).

Medical opinion and legal precedent strongly suggest cimicosis constitutes a disease state when coupled with certain sociopathies, psychopathies, or somatoform disorders.

A perfectly adapted and belligerent parasite, the Bed bug both challenges and threatens public health. Pest management professionals (PMPs) are challenged and threatened by Bed bug liability. Liability stems from uncertainty and is reduced by the certainty of competency through best practices.

  • Proper licenses and certifications.
  • Standard operating procedures exceeding industry standards.
  • SOP's provide new and veteran employees with an essential reference to common business practices, activities, or tasks.
  • Published rate card.
  • Letter of declination for rejected proposals or bids.
  • Prevention programs based upon client training and observational/complaint monitoring.
  • Intervention program.
  • Ongoing treatment program.
  • An insurance agent must be informed in writing of specific needs and possible exposure.
  • Appropriate insurance coverage (liability (GLP), errors and omissions (E&O), employment practices liability (EPL), etc.).
  • Attorney reviewed contract, operational documents, and business model.
  • Community outreach seminars.

Bed bugs have been known parasites of man for thousands of years. Pest management professionals will continue to be challenged by Bed bugs. Where "control" was once the goal, "elimination" is now the mission.

*The author is not an attorney. Contact your attorney regarding your Bed bug program.

From the PMP archive

Connecticut House passes bed bug bill
State Sen. Andres Ayala (D-Bridgeport) has led passage of a bill to help fight bed bug infestations. Senate Bill 952 establishes the responsibilities of landlords and tenants when confronted with bed bugs, and creates consequences should either fail to do their part in removing the infestation.

Be proactive with bed bug customers
As the number of people traveling increases significantly during the summer months, so does the possibility of bed bug infestations. Education is key for pest management professionals and their customers to effectively control bed bug infestations and avoid reinfestations.

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