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In recent years, bed bugs have made a comeback and are increasingly being encountered in homes, apartments, hotels, motels, dormitories, shelters and modes of transport. International travel has also contributed to the resurgence of bed bugs. Changes in modern pest control practice – and less effective bed bug pesticides – are other factors suspected for the recurrence.

Bed bugs are most frequently found in dwellings with a high rate of occupant turnover. Bed bugs can infest airplanes, ships, trains, and buses. It only takes one female to start a local infestation. Such infestations usually are not a reflection of poor hygiene or bad housekeeping. The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is the species most adapted to living with humans. It often takes hours to properly inspect and treat a bed bug infestation and follow-up visits are usually required.

While the insecticide treatments are done, there are certain important pre-treatment responsibilities. Reducing clutter is a necessity. Belongings strewn about rooms afford many places for bed bugs to hide, and impedes inspection and treatment. Infested bedding and garments will need to be bagged and laundered (120°F minimum) or discarded since these items cannot be treated with insecticides. Smaller items that cannot be laundered can sometimes be de-infested by heating. Individual items, for example, can be wrapped in plastic and placed in a hot, sunny location for at least a few days (the 120°F minimum target temperature should be monitored in the centermost location with a thermometer). Bedbugs also succumb to cold temperatures below 32°F, but the chilling period must be maintained for a minimum two weeks.

Vacuuming can be very useful for removing bugs and eggs from mattresses, carpet, walls and other surfaces. Particular attention to seams, tufts and edges of mattresses and box springs and the perimeter edge of wall-to-wall carpets is required. The vacuum contents, thereafter have to be sealed in a trash bag before disposal. Steam cleaning of carpets is also helpful for killing bugs and eggs that vacuuming may have missed.

There are several products which could be used but identifying the right surface and follow up treatment is essential. The first area which should be addressed is the bed itself. Even a strong vacuum is not likely to dislodge bugs from their grip on the bed frame or the mattress. Treatment of at least three times over the next month is required. There are two reasons for this. First, there is no product which can kill the egg. This means eggs which are hiding will probably hatch in one-two weeks. Follow up treatments ensure these new young bugs are not able to establish themselves. Secondly, even if you do a great job at both treating and vacuuming, it is very likely that more eggs will be laid in the week following the initial treatment by females that are missed during the treatment.

Although cases of bed bugs are increasing, they are less in comparison to most other pests problems. Familiarity may help avoid infestation, or at least prompt earlier intervention by a professional.

Ravi Chandra
Sr Sector Manager – Integrated Pest Management,
Diversey India Pvt Ltd

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