Nearly eradicated in the United States 50 years ago, resistant strains of “super” bedbugs are infesting mattresses at an alarming rate. In what’s being touted as the biggest mystery in entomology, all 50 states are reporting outbreaks of the blood-sucking nocturnal critters.
Pest control companies nationwide reported a 71 percent increase in bedbug calls between 2000 and 2005. Left alone, a few bedbugs can create a colony of thousands
It may take three or more visits to eradicate and about $500.00 to $750.00 up to as much as $5,000.00 to eradicate the insects using professional exterminators.
Bedbugs have been found in moving vans, public transit seat cushions, airplanes and college dorms. They spread by hitching a ride on your clothes or in your luggage and
crawling off to infest your home or apartment building.
The size and shape of a lentil, bedbugs lay eggs during the day and hide in your bed, clothing and light sockets. At night, they suck your blood, leaving itchy bumps on your skin and little bloody excretions on your sheets. They don’t pass diseases, but they are incredibly difficult to exterminate, even following their blood hosts who move to new apartments trying to get away.
The bedbug resurgence has sparked Web sites like bedbugger.com , where people share extermination tips, bite mark photos and counsel each other through the stigma. There are bedbug symposiums, cover stories in American Entomologist magazine and dozens of videos depicting infestations on YouTube. California just issued its first state bedbug guidelines, and New York lawmakers want to ban the sale of reconditioned mattresses after 4,600 bedbug cases were reported in 2006.
Laundromats are packed, the tenants are in there, washing everything they own and giving each other knowing glances.
Bedbugs were nearly eradicated after World War II, when exterminators and homeowners used DDT to get rid of the pests.
Experts say bedbugs are making a comeback because of increased global travel and a shift toward less-toxic pest control. As people are backing away from harsh chemicals and indoor spraying, the bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to the pesticides.
We don’t use as harsh of chemicals as we used to, we don’t spray mattresses with insecticide before selling them anymore, and the bugs are getting increasingly resistant to
the few chemicals we have left,” said public health biologist Laura Krueger.
Nearly all exterminators use pyrethroids, which are a synthetic version of pyrethrum, the substance found in chrysanthemum flowers. Last fall, at the University of Chicago some of the nation’s best bedbug researchers delivered some sobering news. They could kill bedbugs born in the lab with pyrethroids. Four groups of adult bed bugs brought in from the outside were unaffected.
Because bedbugs are such a new phenomenon, people don’t know what to do about them and are often unwittingly making their problem worse, said Nobugsonme, a New York woman who runs the bedbugger.com Web site to help sufferers cope.
Thirty percent of people don’t have skin reactions to infestation until it has gotten out of control.
Pest control researchers are experimenting with alternatives such as steaming or freezing the bugs to death, and some New Jersey exterminators are gassing them with the termite killer Vikane.
UC Berkeley urban entomologist Vernard Lewis is trying to get grant money to build a baited bedbug trap.
Bedbugs give off a distinctive odor, described as rotting coconuts, and that’s probably how the males and females find each other, he said.
Until the experts figure it out, bedbug sufferers will have to help each other fight back and raise awareness.
For bedbugger.com , go to links.sfgate.com/ZCC
For the bedbugresource.com , go to links.sfgate.com/ZCD
For a youtube.com bedbug video, go to links.sfgate.com/ZCG