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Are Bed Bug Infestations Harder To Eliminate Now More Than Ever?

If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a bed bug infestation in your home, you know how difficult those buggers are to eradicate for good.

And according to a study in the Journal of Economic Entomology, the bed bug battle isn’t going to get any easier.

Researchers from Purdue University have learned today’s bed bugs are developing strong resistances to two of the most common insecticides used in pest management.

Bed bugs, who’ve been around since the days of dinosaurs, had already been showing exceptional forbearance to several other insecticides. This includes the regularly used, and usually effective, deltamethrin. The limited success of the chemical is one of the key factors to the rise of bed bug infestations over the past decade, particularly in large metropolitans.

Now, they’re rapidly building immunities to deltamethrin’s next best alternatives, bifenthrin and chlorfenapyr.

The Study On Bed Bug Infestations And Immunity

In 2015, the University of Kentucky conducted a survey which found that 68% of pest management professionals consider bed bugs the most difficult pest to control.

Some think it’s because bed bugs are wily, small and harbor in the dark spaces of your home. However, that’s not what makes a bed bug infestation so difficult to kill. Their insecticide resistances are.

The concerns of their growing immunities aren’t new, says lead author of this new study, Ameya Gondhalekar, research assistant professor at Purdue’s Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management.

The longer you use any product for the control of a particular pest, the more resistance issues you are going to have, he says.

For Gondhalekar’s study, his Purdue University research team collected 10 unique bed bug populations from across America. These populations came from Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, DC. These populations were exposed to different chemicals for a week.

In this study the researchers discovered a reduced susceptibility to bifenthrin in half of the bed bugs groups. As a result, over 25% of the bed bugs survived. Three of the populations displayed reduced susceptibility to chlorfenapyr.

Using Bifenthrin And Chlorfenapyr On Bed Bug Infestations

Similar to deltamethrin, bifenthrin is a pyrethroid (an organic compound common in today’s pest control tactics) that targets a bug’s nervous system. Chlorfenapyr is more sci-fi, attacking the mitochondria of cells. The latter is regularly employed by pest control professionals and exterminators. The former is an over-the-counter product that comes in sprays, granules, and aerosols.

Gondhalekar does note that these two chemicals still have relative effectiveness in combatting some bed bug populations. In order to keep these chemicals useful and not allow bed bugs to gain immunity, we must use these insecticides sparingly.

Pairing bifenthrin or chlorfenapyr with non-chemical pest control techniques, for example, will keep the powerful insecticides relevant for years. They can be coupled with heat, steam, or silica gels, for example.

Utilizing pesticides for pest management, however, is easy and cheap. And it’s that accessibility that’s created overuse of chemicals like bifenthrin and chlorfenapyr. This is what has allowed beg bug generations to slowly become impervious to them.

People from academia have been promoting the use of integrative approaches for years, but the cost of non-chemical methods can be prohibitive, Gondhalekar explained.

There is a plethora of research that shows that if insecticides are integrated with addition control measures, effective bed-bug control can be successful. These additional measures are vacuuming, steam or heat, mattress encasements, traps and desiccant dusts.

The Problem With Bed Bug Infestations

While these household pests aren’t dangerous or life-threatening, they are annoying. Their bites can cause itching, allergic reactions, and restless nights. Large bed bug infestations are extremely difficult to fully eradicate. This often leads to additional expenses, stress and social isolation.

Perhaps the best form of pest control against the little bloodsuckers is prevention. There are many things you can do to help keep your home a bed bug-free space. Such things include vacuuming often, springing for an insect-proof mattress casing and being cautious with your luggage when travelling.

If you’re frequently monitoring for bed bugs, then you won’t have the issue of them multiplying into large numbers, Gondhalekar says. It’s much easier to manage the problem early, when it’s just 5 or 10 bed bugs, rather than hundreds.

Are you currently losing the battle with a bed bug infestation on your home turf?

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