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Bedbugs Bite Back

The hitchhikers of the insect world,
bedbugs are making a comeback in the United States
Friday, October 17, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:11 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Bedbugs are back. Some consider the insect a mythical bug, but experts across the country are taking note of the bloodsucking critters’ resurgence during the past few years.

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“It’s something people are observing,” said Richard Houseman of the MU entomology department. “Bedbugs were never eradicated — they were just living in lower numbers.”

Houseman said the return of the bedbug is a result of new pest control methods. With the public demanding less use of chemicals, spot treatments and target-specific baits like those for cockroaches have replaced the old method of wholesale application to treat everything.

“There are benefits to these new methods, but there’s also side effects,” Houseman said. “Because of the way things are being done, the interiorscape has changed.”

According to Houseman, the re-invasion started in big cities with international traffic coming in, and the bedbugs are expected to spread.

The Columbia Health Department and several local exterminators said they haven’t heard of any cases of bedbugs in Columbia, but Houseman said at least one pest control company in town has contacted him about a problem. Representatives of Reliable Termite and Pest Control in Columbia said they’re going to conduct a training session on bedbugs.

Frank Meek, Orkin’s national pest control technical manager, said branch locations in Missouri have reported a few calls but have not seen a major increase. Still, he said, residents who are traveling have an opportunity to come in contact with bedbugs.

A national survey by Orkin showed that bedbug infestations are on the rise across the United States. A 300-percent increase was reported between 2000 and 2001 and steady increases were observed during the past two years.

Meek said the company is seeing about five times as many calls this year as they had received the last two years. The problem has blossomed in both the number of locations and the types of facilities, he said.

“Now we’re seeing them in homes, as opposed to hotels,” he said.

Bedbugs always have been common in some countries, but in the United States they have not been a problem since the 1950s when new materials were developed to control pests.

Meek attributes the resurgence to a combination of factors: An abundance of international travel, dramatically changed pest control methods and the fact that the bedbug is a “great hitchhiker of a bug.”


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