Don’t let the bed bugs bite, part 2

On November 18, 2010, members of Congress, representatives from federal agencies, academic bed bug experts, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), other industries and victims of bed bug infestations gathered at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. to participate in the “Don’t Let Bed Bugs Bite” Congressional Forum.

According to Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA, “Bed bugs are no longer a pest of the past or characters in a nursery rhyme – rather they are a real and serious problem. While our industry is committed to effectively eliminating the bed bug problem, federal intervention is also necessary. This forum is a crucial first step.”

Henriksen said the forum’s panellists discussed the medical, emotional and financial impact of bed bugs, treatment methods and the federal actions needed to deal with this nationwide pandemic.

The forum was co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Don Young, a Republican from Alaska, and G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat. The forum provided an “opportunity to discuss current federal policies and initiatives of prevention and management,” Young said in a statement. “The emergence of bed bug infestations across the United States represents not only a public safety concern, but a threat to each state’s already decreased tourism and commerce revenues. These pests do not discriminate when choosing homes – they are just as likely to infest a family-owned bed & breakfast as they are a five-star hotel.”

Butterfield and Young have introduced H.R. 2248, the Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act. The legislation would give the U.S. Secretary of Commerce authority to provide grants to help states inspect places for bed bugs, and it would provide additional resources to prevent and manage bed bug infestations at lodging facilities and public housing. The grants would cover any area including private homes, resorts, hotels, schools and train stations. In addition, the grants would cover pest management education and training to use the most effective prevention and eradication techniques.

“A recent Rasmussen poll showed that nearly 20 percent of Americans have changed their travel plans to avoid certain public places they fear are likely to have bed bugs. Many states and localities depend on tourism revenue to fund worthwhile public projects for their community. With a nationwide tourism downturn, fear of bed bug infestations will only worsen the problem,” Rep. Young said.

“Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers. They ‘stowaway’ in the personal belongings of travelers, then they are introduced into the resorts and hotels from someone that has them in their personal belongings,” said Dr. John Barcay, an urban entomologist and senior scientist for Ecolab, a company that specializes in cleaning, sanitizing, food safety and infection prevention products and services.

“Increased media attention and litigation have brought more public awareness to the allusive bed bug. Bed bugs have resurged over the last several years primarily due to an increase in international travel and pesticide resistance, but resort operators and their guests should be aware that bed bugs are not known to spread disease and infestations are treatable, especially if they are caught early. Ecolab’s science-based bed bug program targets all life stages of the bed bug so infestations can be eliminated effectively and quickly.”

Ecolab and the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institution have developed what they call the Bed Bug Tool Kit. “If your readers access the website, www.bedbugtoolkit.com, they will see that it provides resources that will help answer questions about bed bugs, and it explains what resorts can do about them. It contains a bed bug pocket card that the housekeepers can keep on their service carts or in their pockets, and it tells them what to do should they suspect that bed bugs are present in the room. There’s an informational poster on bed bugs that can be displayed in their office areas. We also have an instructional video and a bed bug fact sheet,” Dr. Barcay said.

If bed bugs are suspected by resort staff members, Dr. Barcay said they should leave all items in the room including vacuums, carts or other cleaning supplies, and quarantine the room until a reputable pest management company inspects the room or unit for bed bugs and their signs. “These include eggs, nymphs, adult bed bugs and fecal spotting in and around the bed and other areas within the room. One live bed bug defines an infestation. The inspection is then expanded to adjacent rooms – to the left, right, above and below the infested room. Bed bug service – treating infested and adjacent areas with effective products and protocols that maintain the safety of guests/occupants – is then scheduled to quickly eliminate the infestation.”

The recent comeback of the bed bug has resulted in a barrage of new products and services all jockeying for position. How do you chose which options are best for you? The potential problems bed bugs can cause your property (if you are not already dealing with bed bugs) are numerous. Your brand and reputation could be tarnished, you could be sued, you could have itchy, furious guests demanding refunds and compensation for not only being bitten while on your property, but also for unknowingly taking the bed bugs home with them causing further financial and emotional distress. We have looked into some detection and treatment options that are available. We are not necessarily endorsing any of these options. We are simply providing you with the information so you can decide what is best for your property.

Noble Pine Products offers a product called Steri-fab, a disinfectant spray that purportedly kills bed bugs. “Steri-fab is unique among bed bug products. It is both a bed bug killer and disinfectant. In addition, it can be applied to mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets and almost all inanimate surfaces. It’s a ready-to-use product that has been marketed for over 40 years. It requires no dilution. It is not a restricted-use product and can be applied by anyone. It dries quickly and is not active when dry,” said Eric Bryan of Nobel Pine Products.

Douglas Stern is managing partner of Stern Environmental Group, a pest control services company in the New York City area. He told us about several bed bug detection and treatment options. “Stern Environmental Group successfully completed field testing the Termite and Bed Bug Detector in October 2010. The unit is so sensitive that it has successfully detected the presence of just one bed bug in a hidden space,” Stern said.

Stern told us that this new bed bug discovery tool measures – with its various arrays of CO2 sensors – increased levels of CO2 which is exuded by bed bugs as they digest their blood meal. “As bed bugs like to harbor in concealed and small hidden areas such as in cracks and crevices, in nightstand drawers, behind headboards, in box springs, inside electrical outlets, inside bedside clocks, and even in the rolled edges of mattress pillow tops, the CO2 they exude as they digest their food builds up to a detectable level. The Termite and Bed Bug Detector will indicate the presence of this increased level of CO2 with a series of beeps,” said Stern.

Another product Stern told us about is the Bed Bug Night Stick. “The Bed Bug Night Stick is an easy-to-use active bed bug detector that you tuck inside your bed rail or bed frame. You can tuck in corner traps at all corners of your box spring for greater protection. Bed bugs get stuck in the sticky indentations of the Night Stick. This new bed bug detector is the perfect cost-effective low-profile bed bug detection device for resorts and hotels. It attracts bed bugs with a small baited dot, creates a safe harborage place for bed bugs with fecal detection, and it traps bed bugs for visual inspection and confirmation,” Stern said.

Stern said another important tool in the battle against these blood-sucking pests is the development of bed bug monitors. “I consider bed bug monitors a ‘game changer’ in the fight against bed bugs and one that no one is talking about yet. Their use may soon be necessary for all hotels and may even be considered by judges and juries when defending against bed bug litigation. Bed bug monitors will allow professional exterminators to identify pest problems early and thereby contain both the infestation and the treatment cost,” Stern continued.

“There are several types of bed bug monitors available, and the prices range widely from $5 to $1,000. Several of these bed bug monitors actually have a bed bug blood meal lure, and in some cases – in the more expensive products – a CO2 source to imitate a human body presence to actively attract bed bugs. Others have a sticky attractant in a glue-like trap or use special disks that fit under bed legs, or a small heat source,” said Stern.

Another available treatment option for killing bed bugs is Cryonite, a non-toxic patented technology that rapidly freezes pests to death. “Cryonite has been used extensively in Europe and Australia to kill many types of insect pests, including German cockroaches and bed bugs. Stern Environmental is one of the first pest control firms to bring this innovative and effective non-toxic pest control treatment systems to America. The Cryonite machine sprays CO2 snow at -110º F. The CO2 snow is not poisonous and leaves no wet or gummy residues, and there is no risk of pests developing a resistance to the treatment,” Stern explained.

Stern also told us about mattress liners and encasements. “A mattress liner is a lightweight pyrethrum saturated liner that lies on top of your mattress and is placed just underneath your mattress pad. It kills bed bugs on contact and the material from the manufacturer states it will kill pests for up to two years. It is not suitable to be used in beds for children under five years of age. This may be a more price considerate alternative to bed bug-proof mattress encasements,” said Stern.

“As far as bed bug encasements are concerned, we like the product from Protect-A-Bed for several reasons. It was designed by bed bug extermination experts, and it contains a membrane that is lab-tested and certified to be bed bug bite-proof. These encasements prevent a spread of a bed bug pest problem in resorts and commercial properties, and they are a chemical-free treatment that provides peace of mind and protection from bed bug bites after a treatment,” explained Stern.