After having been all but eliminated as a significant problem for decades, bed bugs are back in the U.S. as a serious concern.
Bed bugs are coming back as a problem because people are traveling more internationally, according to N.C. State University Extension entomologist Dr. Mike Waldvogel, and because there is less routine pesticide spraying. Also, more bedbugs have developed resistance to some pesticides, making them more difficult to kill.
In recent months the N.C. Cooperative Extension has been working with various state agencies in the state, including the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to put on educational workshops about the pests, including prevention and treatment strategies.
At some of the recent workshops Robert Brannon of Integrated Pest Inspections used beagles to show how effectively dogs can track bed bugs through their sensitive canine sense of smell. The pests also utilize smell; bed bugs are attracted to humans by scent, body heat and the carbon dioxide that humans exhale.
N.C. State University researchers Warren Booth and Alvaro Romero reported at the workshops they are currently working on "scent-based" traps for the pests.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control notes that while bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases to humans, the bloodsuckers are a significant public health threat because their bites entail a variety of negative physical health and mental health consequences. Infestations also have economic consequences.
Officials with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently called bed bugs the "leading public health pest of the 21st Century," and N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler noted there is no effective treatment for the pests.
"I've heard reports of people dangerously misusing household bug sprays to try and get rid of these blood suckers," Troxler said at an annual NASDA meeting (National Association of State Departments of Agriculture). Troxler told attendees at the meeting he wanted the Environmental Protection Agency to issue emergency registrations for pesticide products to treat bed bugs.
Find out more about the pests at www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/Publications/Bed_Bugs_CDC-EPA_Statement.htm.
A report on the recent N.C. State University bed bug workshops is available at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/news-center/uncategorized/bed-bugs-target-of-research-extension-efforts/