- Written by Dr. S. John Barcay and Joelle Olson, M.S., PhD. Candidate
Sixty years ago, bed bugs were eradicated from the U.S. When DDT was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1972, bed bugs rebounded due to increased international travel, insecticide resistance and a lack of public awareness.
In 2010, bed bugs came into the media spotlight, as a wave of infestations hit popular retail stores, movie theatres, and other non-hospitality settings. At the same time, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky released compelling survey results suggesting a growing global bed bug pandemic.
While public concern escalated and the impacted industries prepared for the worst, a key benefit of the bed bug buzz was about to surface— a widespread public awareness campaign driven by the pest management industry, the lodging industry, and other key stakeholders was launched. In the year that has followed, a range of educational platforms have emerged, including everything from bed bug conferences and webinars, to bed bug websites, white papers, iPod apps, and indepth training materials for business owners and staff. Bed bugs continue to be a significant challenge for the lodging industry, and anywhere people congregate. But while there is no way to keep bed bugs out of a hotel property, increased awareness and education about bed bug biology, behavior and available detection and treatment methods means hotel owners and operators can take a proactive approach to protecting their business from bed bugs. By learning how to be proactive about bed bug inspection and detection, businesses, the public, and pest management providers can reduce the chance of a population spreading, and be better prepared to confront this difficult pest with confidence.
Increased awareness and ongoing, proactive inspections in areas where bed bugs are likely to harbor, means infestations can be identified and isolated sooner— optimizing guest satisfaction and minimizing the risk of negative publicity, legal issues and the cost of guest room downtime. But finding and eliminating all life stages of a bed bug infestation requires the help of a licensed, certified and experienced pest management professional.
The bed bug resurgence has triggered renewed scientific research of this pest, bringing about a variety of products and treatment methods. Some of today’s common detection and treatment methods include:
- Canine detection
- Visual inspections
- In-room monitors
- DNA Swabbing
- Extreme temperatures (CO2 or heat)
Canine inspections, visual inspections and in-room monitors each have unique costs, benefits and challenges. Canine detection may be efficient, depending on the size of the facility and location to be inspected, but its success may be complicated by numerous factors, such as air flow, temperature/humidity, frequency of training and canine/ handler relationship. In-room monitors can attract and trap bed bugs but are not always discreet, and monitoring, by itself, will not eradicate an infestation or significantly reduce a population. Bed bug DNA analysis can confirm bed bug activity in an area, but it does not distinguish between active and inactive infestations. Visual inspections remain the most practical and cost-effective way to detect bed bug activity, and can be very successful when conducted by trained staff and a licensed pest management professional.
To eliminate bed bugs at all life stages, a science-based, multi-step inspection and treatment service is most effective. Both insecticides and extreme temperatures have proven effective in eliminating bed bugs. However, extreme temperatures alone will not eliminate entire populations. Insecticide treatments should still be applied to address bed bugs that do not come into direct contact with hot or cold treatment. A multi-treatment protocol is always recommended, because many insecticides or other treatment methods are not effective against bed bug eggs, and adults that survive an initial treatment may continue to lay eggs.
Bed bugs are recognized as one of the most troubling pests to the lodging industry. But businesses today have access to the information, tools, and expert service they need to take a proactive approach and make a difference.
PROTECTION STARTS WITH YOU
Your customers or guests may bring bed bugs to your business, but you and your staff are the first line of defense. Know what to look for, and be proactive: Education • Take the time and use the available tools (e.g., www.bedbugtoolkit.com) to educate yourself and your staff. • Know what bed bugs are, and where they are most likely to be found. Inspection • Have your staff perform proactive inspections of guest rooms or other likely areas on a regular basis (e.g., as part of daily room cleaning). Reaction • Prepare a response plan that outlines the steps staff should take if bed bugs are suspected or found, and how impacted guests or customers will be handled. • Partner with a qualified pest management provider, for a thorough inspection and science- based elimination service.
About the Authors:
Dr. S. John Barcay is an urban entomologist and senior scientist at Ecolab Inc., the a provider of cleaning, food safety and infection prevention products and services. Dr. Barcay leads pesticide evaluation and development projects, and is an expert on pest elimination techniques for the hospitality industry and other industries. Joelle Olson, M.S., Ph.D. Candidate, is a senior entomologist at Ecolab, focusing on bed bug elimination. Ms. Olson is currently pursuing a doctorate in entomology, with a specific research focus on bed bugs, and leads vital projects such as insect rearing, training, product and equipment testing, and protocol enhancements to the Ecolab Bed Bug Service.)
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