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Philadelphia police working to arrest bedbugs

In Bed Bugs on July 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm

A bedbug infestation is a worst nightmare at home, and at hotels, but what about the police station? Police have called an exterminator to the Harbison and Levick street station to deal with a possible case of bed bugs.

Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Roosevelt Poplar says the building is a busy one–with prisoners, and hundreds of officers from the 2nd and 15th Police Districts, and the Northeast Detective Division.

“The 15th District is a closed circuit facility which means that they do processing of prisoners and they all transport prisoners from that locations down to the Police Detention Unit,” said Poplar. “It’s possible that the bedbugs can travel either on a prisoner or on officers.”


New York Again Tops Bedbug Charts

In Bed Bugs on May 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal
Bedbug exterminators at work in New York City last year.

It probably isn’t much of a surprise, but bedbugs are taking a bigger bite out of the Big Apple so far this year, according to one exterminator company.

For the second consecutive year, Terminix ranked the city first in the nation for bedbug infestations, edging out Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia.  (In better news for New Yorkers, a rival ranking by competitor Orkin ranked the city only the seventh worst for bedbug cases.)

Terminix’s city rankings are based on the number of customer complaints and infestations discovered by employees of the company’s 350 U.S. branches. The company wouldn’t release specific data on just how many bedbug complaints it gets, but it said the problem is multiplying.

Bob Young, an entomologist and Northeast and Midwest division manager for Terminix, estimated that he has logged two to three times more bedbug calls over last year, following high-profile cases in which bedbug invasions forced several Manhattan businesses to close temporarily.

Is any borough of New York more infested than the others?

“Manhattan,” said Young, who is based in New York. He the added: “Clearly, Brooklyn and Queens. The Bronx. Even in the rural areas. They’re all over the place. These things, they hitchhike.”

Business for bedbug exterminators boomed last year. Bedbugs start at $500 a room, and off-site fumigation of personal belongings can add another $1,000, Young told WSJ columnist Anne Kadet last year. High-end residential jobs involving art and antiques can cost as much as $20,000.

This summer projections for bedbug activity probably won’t help New Yorkers feel more at ease. ”It’s a larger and larger problem each day,” Young said. “College students seem to bring them home with them.”

Young, who has been with Terminix for 15 years, said he started seeing the critters hit New York in the early 2000s. Since then, complaints have risen ten- to fifteenfold, he said, as the public becomes more aware of their presence.

Last year, bedbugs shut down the flagship Niketown store on East 57th Street, the Hollister Epic store in SoHo and a Victoria’s Secret on the Upper East Side, among other locations. And the insects made a debut at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

This year? “They’re even in police-department squad cars,” Young said.

Bedbug Research Poses New Health Concern

In Bed Bugs on May 20, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Bedbug research poses a new health concern, which may mean a new need for bed bug mattress protection

bed bugs found in Vancouver hospital with MRSA

Bed bugs are spreading across the United States at a rapid pace; infesting homes, office buildings, and evenhospitals! Researchers  in a Vancouver hospital found bed bugs carrying diseases such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci) –  according to reports in the June edition of the journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

While past research indicates that bed bugs are not known to spread infectious diseases to humans, these findings may shed doubt on that belief. In fact, the phenotype of MRSA found in the bedbugs matched that found in many Eastside patients. Researchers conclude that it is possible that these critters are responsible for transmitting these diseases in overcrowded and impoverished cities. Just one more reason not to let the bed bugs bite! More

A Vacuum That Attacks Bedbugs

In Bed Bugs on March 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm

The war on bedbugs has become so pervasive that only an act of Congress is needed to make it official. Meanwhile, the civilian population is stepping up its weapons. One of the newest is the CleanWave Sanitizing Bagless Vacuum by Verilux, which was introduced at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago last week and sells for about $400.


“It uses UV light, which is a germicidal,” said Ryan Douglas, chief executive officer of Verilux. “What’s most exciting is that it is killing bedbugs; nymphs, which are the babies, and bedbug eggs.”

Hasn’t this vac-attack thing been tried before?

“Some people have tried to kill germs with vacs,” Mr. Douglas said. “But UV-C is a tricky wavelength of light, it’s hard to harness. What we are able to do is intensify and focus it at the surface so it can be very effective as a sanitizer. With the tests we’ve done on bedbug eggs, none of them hatched.”

That gives us the feeling that some tough adults survived.

“A tough adult bedbug is going to survive DDT, just about everything,” he said. “It’s important to be preventative.”

A vacuum could suck up the adults, we suppose. But then this vac is bagless — and they’re probably tough to spot.

“It has a contained area. And they’re actually visible, kind of reddish brown and about 3 ½ to 5 millimeters in length,” Mr. Douglas said. “What we advise people to do is put the container in a plastic bag and drop the bottom out. Then you tie the bag off and double-bag it and get it out of your house.” More


A version of this article appeared in print on March 17, 2011, on page D3 of the New York edition.


The Bedbug Panic Appears to Be Spreading to the Skies.

In Bed Bugs on March 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

Bedbug complaints prompt British Airways to fumigate 747

By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY


By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

The bedbug panic appears to be spreading to the skies.

The Daily Mail of London reports “British Airways grounded two jumbo jets after a passenger complained of being badly bitten by bed bugs during two separate long-haul flights.”

BA confirmed bedbugs had been found on one of those jets –both Boeing 747-400s — and that it has put the plane back into service after being fumigated.

The story came to light after a 28-year-old Yahoo! executive claimed she was bitten by the bugs on two separate BA flights — one from London Heathrow to Los Angeles in January and on another from Bangalore to London Heathrow in February. BA says it fumigated the 747 that flew the London-L.A. flight.

Zane Selkirk, the executive, says she went public with the episode only after getting what she considered to be a lackluster response from BA regarding her complaints.

She created a website — — to chronicle her experience. The site includes vivid photos of the bites, as well as her critique of BA’s response.

With that, BA “has become the latest airline to face a sophisticated internet protest,” writes the highly regarded Financial Times, one of the first major media outlets to pick up the story.

The Times writes Selkirk — a platinum-level frequent flier in the oneworld alliance that includes BA — has joined a growing number of disgruntled passengers who have turn to the Web to air grievances against an airline.

The publication points to actor Kevin Smith — deemed too big for his seat by Southwest — and singer Dave Carroll –of “United Breaks Guitars” fame — as other recent examples.

As for Selkirk, she claims she took her complaint to the Web only after BA failed to give her what she felt was an adequate response to her concerns.

“After the experience I had, all I wanted was some reassurance that BA would acknowledge the issue and address the problem,” she says to the Daily Mail. “If enough people started talking about their experiences with bed bugs on planes, the airline industry would have to do something about it.”

“Ultimately I’m not interested in any kind of compensation from British Airways,” she adds to the Daily Mail. “What I’d like is some peace of mind regarding aircraft cleanliness for myself and other airline customers.”

For its part, BA says it has apologized to Selkirk and adds it does not take such complaints lightly.

“Whenever any report of bed bugs is received, we launch a thorough investigation and, if appropriate, remove the aircraft from service and use specialist teams to treat it,” BA says in a statement to the England’s Press Association. “We have written to Ms Selkirk to apologize for the problems she has described on her trip and reassure her that we take such reports seriously.”

Still, despite the squeamish nature of the story, folks shouldn’t be too quick to point their fingers at BA, says The Economist — another highly regarded publication that’s picked up on the story.

Noting the resurgence of bedbugs has been called a “global pandemic,” the publication’s Gulliver business travel blog writes:

So some of the more intrepid bugs have hitched a ride with a passenger or their luggage and then made merry in premium economy. Horrible, yes, but I don’t think we can expect a carrier to inspect their bedding after every trip. (Or do these incidents indicate that this needs to change?) For the time being, though, I think we excoriate BA for a lacklustre response to Ms Selkirk’s complaint and chide it for the presence of the bugs. Not the other way round.


Wasps Can Smell Bedbugs!

In Bed Bugs on February 21, 2011 at 6:23 am

A Swarm of Wasps, if Not Investors

Ezra Millstein for The New York Times

Glen Rains, left, and Joe Lewis with wasps that can be taught to sniff out most anything, including bedbugs. The men aim to turn the science into a business.

Published: February 19, 2011
THE white paper by the Georgia scientists Glen C. Rains and W. Joe Lewis has a technical-sounding title that masks the exciting news within. “A Project to Bring Innovative New Technology Into the Market Place for Detecting Agents of Harm in Agriculture, Security, and Human Health/Safety Arenas,” it says blandly.
Ezra Millstein for The New York Times

In their natural state, left, the wasps move randomly.

Ezra Millstein for The New York Times

But they cluster to the center when a specific odor is present.

Luckily, Prototype is here to translate: Move over, bloodhounds, there’s a new odor detector in town.

The Wasp Hound, designed by the two scientists, is a hand-held device containing five parasitic wasps. These flying, stinger-less insects have outperformed dogs in tests that measure scent detection of cadavers, but research shows that they can be taught to sniff out anything: explosives, drugs and even that newly resurgent scourge: bedbugs.

Yes, wasps can be taught to react to the whiff of bedbugs’ pheromones. All that Mr. Rains and Mr. Lewis say they need to get their company, SmartHound Technologies, on the road to addressing the nation’s outbreak of bloodsucking pests — among many other problems — is $200,000. But so far, raising capital for research and development has been a challenge.

“If you suddenly discover a new chemical, there’s all kinds of chemical companies,” Mr. Lewis says. “All you have to do is plug it in to an existing infrastructure.” But when it comes to training bugs to swarm, no infrastructure exists. “So we’ve got this new tool with this big gap that we need to cross,” he adds. “At this point, that’s where we’re at: How can we get across that divide and take it to the marketplace?”

The Wasp Hound provides a window into the difficult process of turning scientific research — especially groundbreaking research — into a marketable product. Mr. Rains, 45, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, and Mr. Lewis, 68, a retired research entomologist who worked for nearly 40 years for the Agricultural Research Service of theUnited States Department of Agriculture, have jointly patented the Wasp Hound with their respective institutions. They have teamed with the Georgia Centers of Innovation, a state economic development program, to begin attracting investors. But they know they face an uphill battle.

“The term ‘wasp’ elicits a certain fear, though ours don’t sting people and are friendly,” Mr. Lewis says. Then there’s this problem: “We don’t know how to work with people who are venture capitalists. That’s not our thing; we’re scientists. I guess you’d say we’ve floundered a little bit.”

The genesis of the Wasp Hound goes back to 1988, when Mr. Lewis and a colleague, J. H. Tumlinson, published a paper in the scientific journal Nature that demonstrated how the associative learning process used by insects rivals that of higher organisms. These findings, which spawned more published papers — and which Mr. Lewis says were so radical that “had we suggested them 25 years earlier, we would have been laughed out of our profession” — led to the idea that wasps, like dogs, could potentially be used to detect targets.

First, Mr. Lewis and his colleagues had to answer an important question. While their research showed that wasps were undeniably learning and responding to chemicals and stimuli within their natural context, it was less clear whether they could learn to track things not found in their habitats: incendiary devices, say, or the chemicals typically used in arson. The answer: “We found they could detect almost anything.”

Then it became an engineering problem: how to design a tool that harnessed this insect’s skills in a way that people could easily use? That’s where Mr. Rains came in. “We devised a way of detecting the change in behavior of the wasps that would tell us when they detected an odor,” he says. “Pavlov’s dog, when you rang the bell, would always salivate. Well, wasps don’t salivate, but we found some specific behaviors they did do.”

When wasps have been trained to associate a particular odor with a reward — a good, long drink of sugar water — they get excited when they smell it. “They really move around,” Mr. Lewis says. “Like pigs to a trough.” But unlike pigs, these adult wasps live only about three weeks.

Building the Wasp Hound was a process of trial and error. The first device designed by Mr. Rains required the wasps to head toward the odor source by crawling through an opening equipped with an infrared signal that, when interrupted, would alert researchers that the odor was present. But the system didn’t provide immediate results necessary to track an odor to its exact location. “You could tell well before the wasps actually went in the hole that they’d discovered the odor,” Mr. Rains says.

That prototype was scrapped, and another was designed. This one was equipped with a fan that pulls air into it. If being used in a hotel room, say, it would be aimed at the headboard of the bed, a common spot for bedbugs. A cartridge that contains five wasps is popped into the device. A camera tracks the wasps’ movements, and those images are fed into a software program that measures food-searching behavior — what nonscientists would call swarming. “It tells us, usually within about 20 seconds, if they’ve detected the odor,” Mr. Rains said.

MR. LEWIS says he believes the Wasp Hound could be the first of a series of products that put to use what “nature invented first.” With Mr. Tumlinson and another colleague, T. C .J. Turlings, he published an article in the journal Science in 1990, for example, that showed that when a plant is stressed — a corn seedling, say, being eaten by beet army worms — it actually sends distress signals, emitting odors that attract the natural enemies of the pests. He says he can envision using certain plants as “sentinels” for particular chemicals.

“There’s all kinds of ways that harvesting natural systems could create tools,” he says “We’re just at the tip of the iceberg of potential. An association of industries could develop around it once we make this happen.”

But first, they need the Wasp Hound to pave the way by showing there’s a market. While they hope to eventually use the product for all kinds of detection — from forensics to food safety — they are counting on the furor surrounding bedbugs to encourage people to give their wasps a chance. A market price for the product has not yet been determined.

The short life span of the wasps may be a drawback, but the insects can be produced “in large numbers at pennies per thousand,” Mr. Lewis said. In other words, dogs may be man’s best friend, but wasps are cheaper.



Survey: 1 out of 5 Americans has had a bed bug infestation in their home…

In Bed Bugs on February 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

One out of five Americans has had a bed bug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered bed bugs at home or a hotel according to a new survey from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

“Most Americans recognize that bed bugs are back in a big way. Our survey shows that people are taking the bed bug resurgence seriously and making simple adjustments to daily routines to avoid infestations,” noted Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA. “While it appears bed bugs are here to stay, it is important that the public, the government and the pest control industry work together to minimize infestations through education, building awareness and assistance.”

The “Bed Bugs in America” survey offers a look at how the bed bug resurgence is impacting the lives of Americans. Here are key survey highlights:

Americans who have encountered bed bugs tend to be younger, live in urban areas and rent their homes. The incidence of bed bugs is three times higher in urban areas than in rural areas due to the factors such as larger population size, apartment living and increased travel and mobility which are conducive to the rapid spread and breeding of bed bugs.

  • Bed bugs have been found in all 50 states. Specifically, the pests were encountered by 17 percent of respondents in the Northeast; 20 percent in the Midwest; 20 percent in the South; and 19 percent in the West.
  • Most Americans are concerned about bed bugs and believe that bed bug infestations in the United States are increasing. Nearly 80 percent are most concerned about encountering bed bugs at hotels; 52 percent on public transportation; 49 percent in movie theaters; 44 percent in retail stores; 40 percent in medical facilities; 36 percent in their own homes, 32 percent equally pointed to places of employment and friends’ homes. The fear of getting bitten topped the list of concerns.
  • As the public’s awareness of the bed bug resurgence grows, many Americans are modifying their behaviors to minimize infestations: 27 percent have inspected or washed clothing upon returning from a trip; 25 percent have checked a hotel room for bed bugs; 17 percent have inspected or vacuumed a suitcase upon returning from a trip; and 12 percent have altered or canceled travel plans because of concern about bed bugs. In addition, 16 percent have inspected second-hand furniture they have brought into their homes; 15 percent have checked dressing rooms when trying on clothing; and 29 percent have washed new clothing immediately upon bringing it home from a store.
  • Of the 13 percent of respondents who said they knew someone who had a bed bug infestation in their home, 40 percent said they avoided entering the infested home and 33 percent discouraged those who had the infestation from entering their own home.
  • Despite widespread exposure to information, most Americans know little about bed bugs. Nearly half incorrectly believe that bed bugs transmit disease (NOTE: research conducted to date has shown that bed bugs are not vectors of disease); 29 percent inaccurately believe bed bugs are more common among lower income households, and 37 percent believe bed bugs are attracted to dirty homes.

Pest professionals will also find information in the survey about where respondents would search for professional pest management services, consumer attitudes on available treatment options, and more. The survey was enabled by the Professional Pest Management Alliance.

Greenversations » Science Wednesday:Bed Bugs, Not Just Your Grandparents’ Problem

In Bed Bugs on January 30, 2011 at 7:25 am

Second National Bed Bug Summit

In Bed Bugs on January 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm

The Federal Government is convening the second national bed bug summit on February 1 and 2, 2011. The goal for this summit is to review the current bed bug problem and identify and prioritize further actions to address the problem. Here is a link to attend the webinar:

We are going to the 2nd Annual Bed Bug Summit in DC. Many of the leading experts in govt., academia and business will be attending and discussing the growing problems associated with bed bugs. Notice the cool new search tool for solutions. When we are ready for the market our products will be listed there as well.

Animal Planet’s New Miniseries “Infested”

In Bed Bugs on January 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm


Research entomologist, Jeffrey White of BedBug Central, will be appearing on Animal Planet’s new miniseries “Infested!” to provide an expert perspective on bed bugs. This week, the miniseries will profile the stories of individuals who have experienced extraordinary infestations from animals and insects while looking at the science behind the infestations and how the infestations were successfully treated.
White will be appearing in the, “Bedbugs, Rats, and Scorpions” episode of “Infested!”, which will air Jan. 10, 13 and 14 with additional opportunities to watch. Check your local listings for airing time your area.


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