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Keynote Speaker Dr. Vernard Lewis on Bed Bug Epidemic

Bed Bug University—Pest World Conference

Bed Bug University

Bed Bug Infestation

One of the keynote speakers was Dr. Vernard Lewis, of University of California- Berkeley.  He spoke on his recent research with different Bed Bug Monitors.  He started out by telling our group that in 1989 he received approximately one Bed Bug call per year and that currently he is receiving one Bed Bug call per day on average. (The same is true for territories that we service throughout the southeast. I mean it used to be an occasional call coming out of Columbia, Beaufort, Hilton Head Island, Isle of Palms, Summerville, SC etc. and now we seem to be called regularly from such areas.)

Based on his own personal experience he recognizes the large increase in the bed bug populations. He also noted that Google has some 32,000,000 hits on Bed Bugs and counting.  Dr. Lewis lives and works on the West Coast.  He speculates as to how much of the Bed Bug population is being brought in from overseas and there is some molecular data to back this up.

Bed Bug Identification

He saw issues with Bed Bugs first hand while visiting Japan in 2012 Post-tsunami.  Several points were made in regards to incorrect identification of bed bugs, incomplete inspections with PCO’s (pest control operators), and restraints on Maintenance budgets which do not allow proper funding to deal with an infestation properly.  Noting that the general population as a whole doesn’t even know what a bed bug looks like or the tale-tale signs to look for.

(I personally can’t tell you how true this is. I have been called out to inspect residences in which people point out dirt and lint on mattresses feeling they could be bed bugs. I had a lady in Little River, SC that had collected ziplock bags full of dirt, debri and lint and was sure that it must contain some microscopic bed bugs because she felt her skin crawling- it did not.) Educating the population overall is essential in gaining control over bed bugs. He went on to say that it would be nice to have a good molecular blood test which would detect what insect caused a bite. (I completely agree, but it may be some time before that happens.)

As a professor in California he said that San Francisco now ranks 8th in the world for Bed Bug Infestations and this is higher than the #10 spot which in 2012 went to New York city.  New York is beginning to get a better handle on bed bugs as it used to rank right up top.

Dr. Lewis talked about those in his area who are currently doing pesticide resistance testing and how there are at least 9 different strains of bed bugs which are being studied.

Bed Bug Inspection

When doing Bedbug inspections it is the eggs that are the most problematic. They are tiny and sticky and often laid in cracks and crevices. (I agree with this statement because if it were not for Scarlet (our Bed Bug Dog) and her ability to sniff out bed bug and bed bug eggs there would have been plenty of times I would have failed to find any evidence of bed bugs in an early infestation site. 

It reminded me of one of my first k-9 inspection jobs in Mt. Pleasant, SC.  A lady was sure she had bedbugs and her husband was sure they did not.  Scarlet alerted on a white suitcase which had eggs down in a crevice. White eggs on white luggage is definitely problematic! Gota love my k-9.) 

Bed Bug Incubation

The question was asked if 1 to 2 weeks is enough time for bed bug eggs to hatch? A study was done using a 78 degree Fahrenheit constant temperature and a non constant temperature ranging from 56 degree Fahrenheit to the 78 degrees. He said that they used a variable temperature because the typical home does not stay at a constant temperature and so the variable would be more of a normal setting. The findings were that most eggs hatched in the constant temperature around day seven while the variable temperature showed hatchings of up to three weeks.

Bed Bug Monitor

Dr. Lewis has been involved with numerous studies and I will not cover everything he mentioned, but many of his articles have been published if you are interested in reading up on his work. One that I found interesting was the study of active monitors (those that have attractants) verses passive monitors -those made of cardboard and such.

(In Charleston, SC we placed a few passive monitors on vacation rental beds, but as none of these homes have gotten bedbugs there is no way to evaluate their effectiveness, but does make the housekeepers feel better.) He mentioned five types: Climbups, Bed Bug Catch, Night Watch, Bed Bug Alert and the Verifi. He stated that the Verifi was not available at the time of his study as it had just started. Without going into all the details of the study lets just say he found that 66% of the time bed bugs were away from the harborage area. Overall females seemed to wander away more while males tended to hunker down at the harborage area. He did not find any preference over active monitors verses passive monitors. 

Another study was the Villa Test which was done in a 20x20 building constructed of linoleum floors. He made several arenas to prevent the 1500 bed bugs from escaping. They used the wagon wheel design model for measuring equal distances from items and placed furniture and monitors in each arena. He used starved bed bugs with the idea that they would be hungry thus more active and that they would not lay eggs (there were a few eggs found afterwards), they also used 1 to 1 sex ratio of male to female. In a funny side note, he said that they even put paint dots on each bug so that they could find them easier (even though only 99% were collected at the end of the experiment- some 1% escaped some how even with all wood having been puttied and varnished to get rid of cracks.) He said the male bedbugs seemed to be better at finding cracks than the females. The control group had no monitors in it. Outcome:   Both active and passive monitors showed they held about 10% of the population. For every 1 bed bug seen there are at least 10 bed bugs not seen and probley more as this study only had adults and in a real setting there would be eggs and nymphs.  Mention was made that it will be interesting to see how the new Verifi Monitor will stand up to similar tests and perhaps we will learn more by the next year when he returns to speak at the next  pest conference. I encourage everyone to try and attend Pest World 2013!

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