Where They Are & How To Keep Them Out
By Dr. Stuart Mitchell
One of the most corrupting and cosmopolitan human parasites—bed bugs—are now found in almost every type of human dwelling, hiding in cracks and crevices during the day and falling out to ferociously feed at night. Bed bugs are everywhere.
Progressing to “everywhere” is not an easy feat, however bed bugs use evolutionarily derived strategies of biological radiation and phoresy to go from place to place. Phoresy is the transport of one organism by another. Parasites use this means of transport to colonize new hosts.
Bed bugs can actively distribute a few feet by simply crawling to adjacent rooms or passively distribute long distances when carried on or in people’s stuff. Bed bugs adapt to inhabitants’ behaviors and infestation points (also called "refugia," which are found in climatically stable areas) form in and around occupied rooms.
Fundamental to bed bug biology and behavior, refugia allow seclusion between feedings. Generally a micro-space between two firm surfaces, a refugium places bugs at close proximity to the host.
Blood starved bed bugs can spontaneously host forage, but research suggests environmental cues prompt en masse foraging and feeding. These cues include:
- Pocket concentrations of CO2,
- Body heat within about 3.25 feet of the host and
- Dermal-chemo expressions, or biochemicals produced and sent through the skin.
Although it hasn't been determined how readily bed bugs can track CO2 gradients, it is plausible that CO2 is the longer-range cue.
Bed bug aggregations numbering into the hundreds, consist of male and female nymphs. Available water is conserved and complex pheromone communications are promoted.
Research continues to decipher complex pheromone communications.
How to keep bed bugs out
- Study, understand and practice integrated pest management (IPM). IPM includes inspection and investigation, identification, establishing threshold levels, implementing two or more control measures (cultural, physical, mechanical, and chemical) and evaluation of effectiveness.
- Active and passive monitoring devices can help ensure bed bug elimination.
- Reduce or eliminate clutter.
- Heat treating infested areas and articles to 120°F for longer than 90 minutes can ensure egg and multiple-stage fatalities as desiccation and metabolic shutdown results.
- Professional steam systems can kill bed bugs in locations where product application cannot.
- Cold treatments below 0°F for more than four days can eliminate some infestations (more focally acute, pressurized CO2 snow at -108° F).
- Using box spring, mattress, pillow and furniture encasements can trap bed bugs and detect re-infestations.
- Vacuum (with HEPA filter) to remove eggs, bed bugs and refugia debris. Handle, label and dispose the vacuum bag as hazardous biological waste.
- Currently, there are more than 300 EPA-registered products labeled for use against bed bugs that can help kill adults and prevent future infestations. Always read, understand and follow the directions of the product label.
- Several natural product offerings such as aerosols, dusts and concentrates are also available for the control of bed bugs, including a number of FIFRA 25(b) exempt options.
- Judiciously and strategically use properly labeled professional products. Verify application sites and treatment techniques listed on the label.