Jim Harger | The Grand Rapids Press
Published: Thursday, February 03, 2011, 6:00 AM Updated: Thursday, February 03, 2011, 7:25 AM
GRAND RAPIDS – The tiny bedbug has made a big comeback in the last five years after nearly disappearing during the last half of the 20th Century.
The pest control business is taking notice.
“Last year, it made up to 10 percent of our business,” says Mark VanderWerp, a supervisor with Rose Pest Solutions of Grand Rapids His company estimates they handled between 250 and 350 bedbugs exterminations last year.
“Years ago, it was considered the poor man's bug. Now with more world travel, it's more commonplace,” says Jefrey Budd, vice president of sales and service of Shoreline Services Inc., a Holland-based pest control firm.
VanderWerp and Budd were among 50 pest control operators who attended a lecture on bedbugs Wednesday at the annual conference of the Michigan Mosquito Control Association at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
Erik Foster, a medical entymologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health, said bedbugs have made a comeback since the elimination of DDT and other harsh pesticides that nearly eradicated them in the mid 20th Century.
“When I went to school, the only species we had were under really old microscope slides,” said Foster, who traces his first sighting to 2006 on a mattress at Wayne State University.
Today, they can be found nearly anywhere they can find warmth and a food source, Foster said.
That food source is a sleeping human. “Bedbugs are a human parasite. They live only on human blood,” he said.
Despite their feeding habits, bedbugs do not spread diseases like other insects such as cockroaches or mosquitos, Foster said.
Even though they're not disease carriers, Foster said they can inflict psychological stress, anxiety and stigma on households that have been invaded by them.
Bedbugs are expert at hiding near their food source, Foster said. That could be in a mattress or box spring, a headboard, a couch, an upholstered chair, behind the picture on the wall or in a light fixture on the ceiling.
They can be discovered by looking for the telltale blood spots they leave behind on mattresses, bed slats or headboards. They also can be found hiding in the folds of a mattress or an upholstered chair.
But visual inspection is time consuming for humans, Foster said.
“Canine detection is the wave of the future,” he said. “They are as good as drug dogs. They can search an entire apartment in one hour.”
Bedbugs most commonly travel via used mattresses and furniture that is moved from place to place, Foster said. They also hide in luggage on occasion. They rarely hitchike in a person's clothing, he said.
Getting rid of them is not easy. Many of the insecticides, bug bombs and Internet promotions that claim to get rid of bedbugs are ineffective, he said. Cleaning and vacuuming can also miss their hiding places.
The most effective way to get rid of bed bugs is to super-heat up their environment, Foster said. Bed bugs cannot survive temperatures above 117 degrees.
VanderWerp said the super-heating treatment is expensive but effective. The typical home requires one or two heating units that are trailered in for about $1,000 each.
To be effective, they have to bring the heat up in a home to more than 120 degrees for more than six hours, VanderWerp said.
“It's expensive, but it gets the job done,” he said.
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