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Susan Jones, PhD. Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio

Bed Bug University—2015 Bed Bug Summit

Since 2014 working in the field with the Bed Bug Task Force Ohio to Help Discover How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Bed Bug University

Dr. Susan Jones is a Professor of entomology (the branch of zoology concerned with the study of insects) at Ohio State University. From 1991-1995 she worked with USDA Forest Services and especially in studying Termiticides (used for killing termites). Then in 2004 she was placed on the Bed Bug Task Force Ohio where she has researched and worked in the field to help eradicate bed bugs. Having published over one-hundred articles she is well known within the industry and continues to bring new research and best practices into the industry.

The more we learn about bedbugs the better off our society will be

In listening to Dr. Susan Jones speak at the 2015 conference I took notes and have tried to the best of my ability to recant what I learned from her experiences and research in the study of bed bugs at the University of Ohio. The more we all learn about these pests the better off our society will be. It is still such a new field that many in North America have not yet experienced or come across bed bugs nor do they understand the complexity involved in eradicating a bed bug infestation. I advocate for people to seek out professional help from a Pest Control Operator that is licensed and has experience with bed bugs, but for those unable to pay for professional services there are ways to self-treat if you are willing to purchase the correct chemicals and put in the detailed preparation work that is required.

Heat Remediation in combination with chemicals is still the gold standard

I would also add that any company that is hired to treat bed bugs with only chemicals must do so at a minimum of two treatments scheduled about two weeks apart as well as following up with a third treatment in many cases. Heat Remediation in combination with chemicals is still the gold standard because it kills eggs as well as adult bed bugs.

High Bed Bug Infestations

She started out by talking about her experiences with people that have high bed bug infestations. She couldn’t believe how many people are willing to live with high infestations of bed bugs. She recalled a middle-aged couple that had bed bugs crawling all over every piece of furniture, but were living with it and acted as if they were just a nuisance like having fleas. They had even been shunned by the community and their family, but were still willing to live in the home. Listening to her speak it occurred to me that there most likely is some form of mental health issues with these situations, like those that live in extreme hording and except filth, pest and disease in their living spaces.

Heat Remediation

She believes in whole structure heat remediation in combination with chemical insecticide to offer both immediate results and a residual barrier in treating bedbug infestations. She also talked about common issues such that crop up in the field. People have trouble identifying bed bugs and will sometimes confuse a stink bug for a bed bug. Some people will flat out deny that they have bed bugs due to stigmatism associated with this pest.

The Dangers of Using Bed Bug “Bombs” and Foggers

People are always purchasing “bombs” to try and kill the bed bugs thus scattering bed bugs throughout the home. In addition, there are safety concerns with foggers blowing up houses.  She stated that the only state using her bed bug data to prohibit bed bug bombs being used is the state of Alaska.  These bed bug chemicals are being misused and she asks that if anyone in the field comes across chemicals being misused to please send her a picture and she will send it to the EPA as they are mostly unaware of the large misuse of these chemicals. An example that she gave was the misuse of pesticides that are labeled as explosive, yet people fail to turn off pilot lights.

While bed bugs are big at hitch hiking, they do not live on their host.

There is the perception that bedbugs are on the dogs and pets like fleas. While bed bugs are big at hitch hiking, they do not live on their host. They prefer human blood over pet blood, but they will take feedings from animals when no humans are present versus the alternative of starving. Susan discussed the development of bed bug eggs and just how quickly or slowly an egg develops will depend on the temperature in the home. She explained that old people tend to keep rooms very warm and in these settings, develop quickly into reproductive adults, in as little as three weeks’ time. She reminded us that bed bugs are tremendous hitchhikers and that at one highly infested home one of her co-workers found thirteen bedbugs tucked into his shoes and her other co-worker found five on her shoes. Obviously, they were right in the middle of the infestation doing their research, but still it lets you know how well they can hitchhike.

Bed bugs can survive a long time without having a blood meal. Over 5 months!

Bed bugs can survive a long time without having a blood meal. She has documented finding both nymph and adult bed bugs still alive in vacated homes (with no food source) that had temperatures of 65-70 degree Fahrenheit at day 110. She continued to find adult bed bugs alive at day 145 or a period of five months. At this point the bugs were traveling all over the house in search of a food source.

Bed Bugs have inherited chemical resistance

As far as chemical resistance goes she finds that inherited resistance within bed bug populations allows them to survive higher and higher doses of the said chemical. When she finds bed bugs that are still alive after a twenty-four-hour period post chemical application she considers them to be resistant. Back in 1940 thru 1950 DDT was commonly used for pest control. We know that some bed bugs lived thru DDT and have resistance to it. We now see cross resistance with pyrethroids as there is lower penetration of the bed bug’s cuticle (the  tough but flexible, outer coverings of a bedbug). If bedbugs are resistant to pyrethroid they won’t die when they walk across the dried poison, but if you can spray them directly with the wet chemical then they will die. In addition, dried chemicals will have less effectiveness depending on the substrate that they dry on. For example, if chemicals dry on plywood the wood will absorb more of the chemical than fabric and this means there is less poison on the wood, i.e. less killing power. In other words, for these resistant bedbug, a brief exposure of chemicals is not enough to phase them.

Getting rid of bed bugs and Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Getting rid of bed bugs is a multi-faceted treatment plan to include: chemicals, heat remediation, and physically removing them via vacuuming. Susan explained how she puts a nylon stocking in the vacuum tube and then she can remove the stocking putting it in a plastic bag where she can inspect it for bed bugs. As for chemicals, we should remember that Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is an Organic dust not a synthetic chemical. It will certainly help kill bed bugs, but by itself it isn’t going to get rid of all the bed bugs. If you are going to be using Diatomaceous Earth it cannot ever get moist or wet or it will not work, even if it dries back out, it will not reconstitute itself. Be sure you store it in an area that isn’t humid.

Active Guard Liners—are they effective?

Susan has also been working with a product called Active Guard Liners which are like a fitted bed sheet, but have the chemical Pyrethrin in the fabric. She likes to invert the position of the sheet placing them on the box springs in some cases. She found they offer a unique delivery system that does impact the bed bugs, but she was not clear on how effective they really are. She stated they need to be replaced every two years to continue to work. Her study also looked at bed bug behavior when exposed to Active Guard liners for one minute and found a significantly lower number of bed bugs attempted to feed and after a ten-minute exposure only noted one female feeding to completion. Females not feeding were not laying eggs. She stated that Active Guard was good as a preventative measure or for after you had knocked out most bed bugs.

Capturing Bed Bugs for study

Some may recall the Verify product which helped to capture bed bugs and determine if bed bugs are present. Susan said she is sad that they no longer manufacture it because she really liked them. She recalled a story about an old lady that had her home treated over and over by a pest control company. They would do two treatments and be done only to return a few months later to treat again.  They continued to blame the lady for the failures. Susan went in after they had recently done their 2nd and final treatment, to see what was happening. She placed Climbups (Bedbug traps) and Verify traps in the room. When she returned to check traps she found 8 bed bugs with most being in the Climbups, but some were also in the Verify.  Eight bed bugs after the company had completed their final treatment, proved that they were not killing all the bed bugs. Apparently, the K9 team had one dog that had alerted to bed bugs present while the other dog had not, to which they did a spot treatment on the area alerted. Her intervention proved that the company should have done another complete third treatment to eradicate all the bed bugs.

Pyrethrin has no effect on repelling bedbugs

In 2013 she did a study with Pyrethrin to see if it repelled bed bugs. She found that the chemical had no effect on repelling them. As for the kill factor, those that were susceptible died quickly, bed bugs that were more resistant started to die off around day four. Those not dying were slowing down and decreasing the distances they traveled. As with roaches, those that live thru the Pyrethrin and lay viable eggs will have offspring that are also resistant to Pyrethrin.

Health Departments considers Bedbugs only a nuisance since they do not transmit diseases

Health Departments do not have to deal with bed bugs currently as they do not transmit disease as far as research can tell so they are considered a nuisance. Research has shown that bed bugs carry 40 to 45 different pathogens in their bodies yet we don’t see these being transmitted to humans currently. Experiments have demonstrated bi-directional transmission of pathogens between a bed bug biting a rat with known pathogen and then the bed bug gets infected with the same pathogen, but they haven’t seen bed bugs pass it on to their human host as of writing of this article (2016). There is a possibility that this will change as pathogens adapt and evolve.

But bedbugs can transmit the same parasite that the kissing bug transmits

She did mention that bed bugs can acquire and transmit the same parasite that the kissing bug transmits called Trypanosoma Cruzi (a parasite).  It causes Chagas Disease which is hard to detect in the early states, but which damages the heart and causes death if treated too late. The Kissing bug transmits this to humans thru their feces. Kissing Bugs normally bite near the face and then it is the open skin that can get the kissing bug’s feces inside and thus transmit the parasite to humans. As far as skin reactions, she sees about seven out of ten people having some type of skin condition. Bed Bugs have also been found to have it in their feces and have much more close contacts to humans that the Kissing Bugs. In addition, the Institutional Review Board gave permission for Bed Bug Defecation Behavior Study in which they studied Naked rats (hairless). They found that as soon as a bed bug withdrew its mouth from feeding it would defecate within five seconds to two minutes. This means the feces would be near the torn skin area and that it could be a vector for transmission of pathogens in feces. This means there is reason to continue to monitor bed bugs for possibly transmitting diseases. We must continue to research, study, teach, be more pro-active using a mixture of treatment methods to include heat, chemicals and dust, and to monitor post treatment. These pests have made a comeback, but as a society we can knock them out when we have the facts and experts willing to educate society. I look forward to the 2016 Bed Bug Summit in Indiana.

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