You may think the best way to deal with a bed bug problem is to only use insecticides. But many people often overlook the importance of using non-chemical methods and, more importantly, preventing the bugs in the first place. This is particularly critical in multi-unit housing buildings where bed bugs are very difficult to eliminate.
Alvaro Romero, from New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, is working with other researchers to educate the public about preventing bed bugs.
Although many fieldwork studies have been completed in multi-unit housing in the last decade, Romero said researchers have seen that treatments often fail to completely eradicate infestation from these environments. This has led researchers on a different path of improving the approach to dealing with these pests.
“We went from only using insecticides heavily in the very beginning, to incorporating multiple tactics in order to make this program more effective,” he said. “It’s what we call integrated pest management.”
An assistant professor of urban entomology in NMSU’s Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science, Romero is the lead author on a report published May 31 in the Entomological Society of America’s Journal of Integrated Pest Management.
“This report is part of collaborative efforts of researchers from eight western states funded through a grant from the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Romero said.
“The first phase of our project was to identify the prevalence of pest management practices for bed bugs among tenants, landlords, managers and pest management professionals in the West. This information has served as baseline data to identify knowledge gaps and problems that help to define applied research goals for regional bed bug management. The next phase is to develop, compile and disseminate educational resources for multi-family housing and other built environments.”
The report – titled “Bed Bugs: Proactive Pest Management Critical in Multi-Unit Housing” – describes several approaches to managing bed bugs, including detection and monitoring, which is the most important component of successful integrated pest management programs. The report also describes the use of a variety of non-chemical methods, such as:
– Clutter reduction
– Interceptors, or bed bug traps
– Placing encasements in mattresses and box springs
– Steam treatment
“It’s difficult – almost impossible – to eradicate bed bug infestations in these particular environments,” Romero said. “A further step to manage bed bug problems is to have more involvement from the public, including residents, staff and managers.”
Romero said early detection is the key. And because many people in assisted living centers may be disabled, blind or wheelchair-bound, cooperation from staff is necessary to implement effective integrated pest management programs.
In addition to cooperation, education is vital in addressing the bed bug problem. Through outreach efforts, Romero and his collaborators plan to inform the public how to identify bed bugs and prevent infestations.
“We want to make available many documents that we consider extremely necessary, because education is a key point to bed bug management,” he said.
Romero said social behavior among humans is an important factor as well.
“Clutter, books under the bed – all those locations represent potential living areas for bed bugs,” he said. “And the most common way to transport bed bugs from one place to another is through the exchange of second-hand furniture.”
While people may balk at the cost and labor associated with integrated pest management programs, addressing infestations at early stages is actually less expensive and more economically viable in the long term, as it requires fewer insecticides and treatments, as with a reactive approach.
“We’re going to see the benefits of these programs in the long term,” Romero said. “If you effectively deal with bed bugs today – in multi-unit housing, for example – the next year you’re most likely going to see fewer cases of bed bugs.”
Romero said there is an abundance of information available to educate the public, especially on university websites.
The NMSU Cooperative Extension Service publication “Sleep Tight! Don’t let the Bed Bugs Bite! Practical Information for Dealing With and Eliminating Bed Bugs” is available HERE.
Virginia Tech has information available specific to the hotel industry, to the multi-unit housing industry and to schools. Click HERE for more information.
To view the Entomological Society of America’s Journal of Integrated Pest Management report by Romero and his colleagues in its entirety, click HERE.
Author: Kristie Garcia – NMSU