Bed Bugs Escalating - Insecticides part of problem
Although they haven't made the headlines as often over the past couple of years, bed bugs have been on the rise again and they may be growing thicker skins, literally. Just the mention of those creepy, biting creatures can make one's skin crawl, especially if you ever had to deal with them.
Recently, a woman with her seven year-old daughter and fiancé on a British Airways flight from Vancouver to London, found themselves with unwanted travelling companions bed bugs. They were literally pouring out from behind the TV screen of the seat in front of them. She asked to be moved, but there were no other seats available and so had to endure the rest of the flight trying to fight off the bugs. By the time they landed, they were covered in bites. She has since been in contact with British Airways and they are investigating it further.
Although it is extremely rare to find them on airplanes, and it really not being a bed bug's choice of residence - there has been more than one report about the bugs being found on British Airways flights. In fact, the more we become globally active and travel, those nasty little creatures will be hitching rides in our suitcases and shipping containers. But even more disturbing, the insecticides being used to kill them are what researchers now have reason to believe is contributing to the spread of bed bugs.
A study last year by the University of Sydney (USYD) and published in the Public Library of Science journal, highly suggests bed bugs are becoming more resistant to commonly used insecticides. According to David Lilly of USYD, whose PHD research focuses in this area, new findings revealed that one way they are beating insecticides is by developing a 'thicker skin’.
“Bed bugs, like all insects, are covered by an exoskeleton called a cuticle. Using scanning electron microscopy, we were able to compare the thickness of cuticle taken from specimens of bed bugs resistant to insecticides and from those more easily killed by those same insecticides,” he was cited as saying on their website. "The new findings could explain why failures in the control of bed bug infestations are so common. They may also unlock new pathways to developing more effective insecticides for bed bug control."
By 'comparing the cuticle thickness of the bed bugs, it revealed a stunning difference; the thicker the cuticle, the more likely the bed bugs were to survive exposure to the insecticides'.
Here on the island of Montreal, bed bugs are becoming a quiet, but growing concern again. "After two years of stability, there's an increase in bed bugs… it's still a very big problem in Montreal," Mathieu Vachon, a spokesperson for Montreal's Public Housing Authority was cited in a CBC news report just this past June.
Bed bugs are hard to spot at first as they are small, have flat bodies and can hide in the tiniest gaps, nooks and crannies - and easily brought into your home from someone else's place or another apartment in your building. Then can also come from a used clothing store or discarded furniture from outside. One indication you might have bed bugs are the bites, which can appear like those from other insects, such as mosquitoes.The bites appear as raised, red welts, sometimes in straight lines of multiple bites - and they burn and itch.
They are often found close to where people sleep - like on mattresses, box springs, headboards, footboards, bed frames and other furniture close to the bed. They can also be found in gaps behind electrical wall outlets, window and door moldings and even at the edges of carpets against a wall.
Another indication of an infestation could be groups of dark brown or black spots of dried excrement on infested surfaces. So what to do, other than scream 'ewww'?
The first line of defense is to never pick up furniture left outside by someone - especially mattresses, chairs and sofas, as they could be infested. Carefully inspect items you are considering buying at garage sales. When moving and hiring professionals, check the blankets they use to protect your items - as they have probably been used many times over. It is highly suggested to cover and seal things in plastic yourself first. Do not hesitate to ask them if they are aware of bed bug problems and taking precautions - or even ask if you can inspect the truck.
Items from a used-clothing store should be washed in hot water as soon as possible, or put in the dryer for an hour at the highest temperature. Luggage from a trip can also be a transport hub for bed bugs. It is recommended you remove all the clothing and run them through the dryer as well. The luggage itself can be vacuumed afterwards but remember to put the vacuum bag in plastic after it's done and into a garbage bin outside.
But if you do find bed bugs have somehow managed to get into your home, it would be wise to contact a pest control professional and arrange a treatment.
Or you can scream 'ewww'… and do the fandango.
Bed Bug bites