After having disappeared from the public eye for several decades, bedbugs have made a resurgence in the United States over the past years.
Stan Howell, Service Center Manager for Stark Exterminators said he has been in the extermination business for more than 15 years, but has only started receiving calls about bedbugs in the past 7 or 8. Since then, he said, bedbugs have become a kind of national epidemic.
Bedbugs are tiny insects no larger than an apple seed that thrive on human blood. They tend to nest in places where people sleep, making them prevalent in places like hotels, motels, campers, cabins and other places where people travel in and out.
While bedbugs are not known to transmit diseases, they are still considered a public health concern by several national health agencies. According to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, although they do not transmit diseases, bedbug bites can cause serious allergic reactions and infestations can lead to higher rates of anxiety, insomnia and negative mental health issues.
It is currently unknown why there has been a sudden increase in the number of bedbugs across the United States, but it may be “due to more travel, lack of knowledge about preventing infestations, increased resistance of bedbugs to pesticides and ineffective pest control practices,” the report states.
Howell said depending on the severity of the infestation, ridding a home of bedbugs can be a long and invasive process. He said that extermination procedures involve eliminating bugs in each stage of development from every item in the home – including furniture and clothing, among other things.
Howell said that usually entails the use of three treatment measures including insecticides, steam treatments and the use of industrial heaters. He said that using all three in combination with each other is the best way to ensure the infestation is completely cleared.
Howell said bedbugs are always introduced to a home; they never wander in. That introduction can be from furniture, clothing or any other item brought into a home from an infected area. The only exception, he said, is within apartment complexes where bugs can move from unit to unit. He said the best way to prevent an infestation is to be cautious when traveling or inviting guests.
“Be mindful of where you’re at and know what to look for,” Howell said.
He said when traveling and staying at a hotel, motel, or any other accommodation, time should always be taken to check for bugs before bringing any items into the room. Carefully inspect the sheets, blanket, pillows and mattress for dark spots or live insects. He said if any signs of a potential infestation are seen, leave immediately and either request alternate accommodation, or go somewhere else.
“Education is the best prevention,” Howell said.
While infestations can be stopped, the help of professional exterminators are typically needed. According to the EPA, there are several additional steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of bedbugs, including checking secondhand items before bringing them into a home, vacuuming frequently and reducing clutter to eliminate potential hiding spots.