What for many of us was a sweet way of saying good night has now become solid advice with the resurgence of the bed-hopping bloodsuckers. Bedbugs are the hardest pest to control in America, despite stiff competition from ants, roaches and termites, he said.
When bedbugs last surged, in the early to mid-1900s, Americans trained themselves to be careful against infestations. They checked for bedbugs whenever they ventured away from home. Dedicated "search and destroy" missions by parents and public servants virtually eradicated the pests by the late 1950s. But today’s bedbug problem is going to be more difficult to deal with Americans traveling more and greater immigration. Secondhand furniture, clothes and other recyclables are also in vogue, posing more risks. And people tend to own more stuff now, providing more hiding places for bedbugs, which like to aggregate in any dark nook and cranny, not just mattresses. Bedbugs hang out until hunger drives them to seek human warmth and exhalations (carbon dioxide).
The bugs aren’t known to carry diseases, but their bites can raise itchy welts in some people and cause serious infections in others. And the "ick" factor is off the chart for most people, researchers said. But don’t bother with over-the-counter insect repellants, according to experts they don’t work.
Americans probably will have to learn to live with bedbugs, whose ranks include many resistant to currently available insecticides and banned ones, such as DDT, that previously were effective but wouldn’t be now. There are fewer chemicals in the arsenal, and all are less effective than they once were because of bedbug genetic adaptations.
You should learn how to watch for and identify the bugs, typically the size of an apple seed, and to keep an eye out for their eggs. Controlling infestations probably will require repeated spraying by more than one chemical cocktail and/or destruction by carefully managed heating techniques. According to experts, your home clothes dryer is your best friend, about 10 to 15 minutes in the appliance can kill bedbugs in clothes, linens, blankets and more.
A survey of more than 1,000 pest-control operations — more than 500 in the U.S. — found that exterminators have treated infestations in homes, hotels, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, offices, college dorms, ambulances and elsewhere.
The survey of pest controllers found that 76 percent of respondents considered the bedbug hardest to eradicate, compared with the 13 percent that cited ants and the 9 percent fingering roaches. Termites finished a distant fourth.