Dini Miller speaks at the North American Bed Bug Summit in Chicago
Rick Cooper speaks during the opening session, discussing the prevalence of bed bugs in areas that were previously not considered.
CHICAGO – With the national (and international) bed bug problem continuing to escalate, Tuesday’s North American Bed Bug Summit has drawn unprecedented attention for the pest control industry as local and national print, television and radio outlets have converged on Chicago for the two-day event organized by BedBug Central.
Recent attention-grabbing bed bug stories (e.g., “Bed Bugs Close Down Niketown;” and “Bed Bugs Found in NYC Movie Theater”) have piqued the media’s interest in the summit, which already was highly anticipated for having brought together pest management professionals and other industry stakeholders to hear from some of the industry's leading entomologists and bed bug experts.
More than 360 people are in attendance and while about 60 percent are from the pest control industry the remaining 40 percent include a variety of stakeholder (e.g., public housing officials, hotel/motel management, industry suppliers, etc.).
Bed Bug Central’s Rick Cooper, technical director of Cooper Pest Solutions, set the tone for the meeting in the opening session by noting, “Today maybe the question should not be, ‘Where are we finding bed bugs -- but where aren’t we finding bed bugs? We are seeing them in all facets of society.”
Bed bugs are no longer relegated to the hotel industry and isolated incidents in peoples’ homes. For example, Cooper said that in New Jersey alone Cooper Pest Solutions is treating 2-3 office buildings per week.
In reviewing the recent history of bed bugs, Cooper noted that bed bugs -- a pest that was thought to have been eradicated (or close to eradicated) during the 1950s -- began re-emerging in the late 1990s. Cooper believes that the problem spread throughout society due to a lack of public awareness. For the remainder of his presentation Cooper gave attendees a bed bug primer by reviewing bed bug biology, behavior and management techniques.
Other highlights included:
- Dr. Coby Schal, professor of urban entomology, North Carolina State University, shared some of NCSU’s research on the bed bug resurgence. One of the reasons bed bugs are not expected to be eradicated (as they were post WWII) is because of strains of pyrethroid-resistant bed bugs. Schal noted that there is anecdotal evidence that “immigrant populations of bed bugs” (those that have been transported to the U.S. from other countries) are more pyrethroid-resistant because heavy pyrethroid use is more prevalent in non-Western countries.
- Dr. Michael Potter (University of Kentucky) and Dr. Dini Miller (Virginia Tech University) reviewed various options for chemical treatments. Potter noted that when bed bugs began re-emerging he contacted pest control professionals in their 80s, such as Harry Katz, John Osmun and Val Smitter. He said the consensus was that products such as malathion, diazinon, lindane and others oftentimes only required one application. Today, bed bug management requires several trips and the use of a wide variety of products. And Potter says it’s not that technicians are not as skilled at treating – he says he rides with a lot of technicians and has observed them doing very thorough bed bug treatments. Again, the subject of pyrethroid resistance was discussed. Miller spelled out how pyrethroid-resistant bed bug populations spread. Bed bugs that are resistant to pyrethroids have a genetic mutation such as a thick exoskeleton or enhanced levels of enzyme activity. So, if a population of 100 bed bugs was sprayed with a product and there are four bed bugs that survive because they have a thick exoskeleton, those four bed bugs will mate and soon after an entire population will be bed bug-resistant
- Dr. Stephen Kells (University of Minnesota) and Dr. Phil Koehler (University of Florida) led a session on heat treatments, the Achilles heel of bed bugs, while Dr. Rudy Scheffrahn (University of Florida) gave a presentation on fumigation. Mike Potter led a session about ancillary bed bug service and tools that included a review of the many new products entering the market. Attendees had additional opportunities to learn about these products at the expo hall, filled with products and service offerings from more than 50 companies.