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Understanding the only way to control bed bugs: Green Pest Management.

Abell Pest Control

Bed bug infestation is on the rise in North America and is a growing concern. In Canada, reports on incidences of bed bug infestation come from coast to coast across the nation, from Victoria to PEI. Here, I argue that the best, and only way, to control bed bug outbreaks is by applying Green Pest Management (GPM) method.

GPM is a pest management approach that combines the reduced use of insecticide with alternative strategies, such as non-chemical treatments, inspection, monitoring and prevention through public education. In the pest control industry, it is called Integrated Pest Management. But first, let’s understand why there are now so many bed bugs.

Experts blame on at least three causes:

  1. Increased international travels
  2. The ban on persistent insecticides
  3. Lack of knowledge/awareness on bed bugs

1. Increased in international travels has magnified bed bug dispersal worldwide. This is best illustrated by the 2000 Sydney Olympics. BBC News (January 2007) reported that by the end of the Games, 98% of the hotels in Sydney had at least one infested room. The Sydney Morning Herald (February 2007) reported that there was a 500% increase in the treatment of bed bugs between 2000 and 2005. Statistics Canada recorded about 1.6 billion international travellers returning/entering to Canada between 1990 and 2005, a high enough traffic to accidentally transport bed bug.

2. The absent of more persistent insecticide has been hypothesized to contribute to this resurgence. For example, many Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) believe that if DDT (a persistent insecticide that often is hailed as the eliminator of the northern hemisphere bed bug population) is available today, this outbreaks will have never occurred. Unfortunately, this is only true for a short-term control. Scientific evidence has shown that bed bugs had developed resistance to the DDT as early as the 1940s, long before it was banned in 1972. If the use of DDT or other persistent insecticides had continued, the bed bug population would still be on the rise, because this creature develops resistance quickly.

3. Most people have no idea what bed bugs are, because they were absent from public places in North America for nearly 50 years. Consequently, when infestation occurs in homes or apartments, people either ignore it or react in such a way that actually promotes bed bug spreading spreading. For instance, people discard their infested items like mattresses or sofas without placing a sign that they are bed bug infested (who would?). Nonetheless, it inadvertently provides opportunity for the bugs to find new homes when these items are re-used by others. Another example is the use (or over use) of the over-the-counter insecticides, which triggers bed bugs to hide deeper within the furniture or move to other rooms – this explain one of the mechanisms as to how an entire apartment can become infested and bed bugs develop resistant to insecticide. Lack of knowledge/awareness, unfortunately, applies also to many inexperience PMPs.

To treat a bed bug infestation, PMPs have two options: Chemicals or GPM. During the early stage of bed bug resurgence, many PMPs (and their clients) preferred the Chemical method because it is quick and inexpensive. In this method, a PMP typically spray the infested room and/or objects with insecticide, and the job is done. At a glance, it seems to solve the problem. But it is not! Bed bugs are capable to detect the insecticide, and some will escape to another room before being killed. In addition, continuous use of insecticide also induces bed bugs to develop resistance. Scientists in the USA reported a 200 to 300 times higher dose is required to kill bed bugs collected from the field (apartments, hotels, houses, etc.) as compared to those raised in their laboratories (Pest Control Technology magazine, July 2007). Plus, this chemical treatment will not kill the eggs; a week or two later the bugs are back.

In the GPM method, in the contrary, a PMP applies a combination of all available pest management techniques, while minimizing the use of insecticide. This approach, unfortunately, is laborious and could cost 3 to 4 times more than using just insecticide. It aimed to prevent bed bugs from spreading throughout the building. In a hotel or apartment, for example, the treatment would be aimed at both rooms on each side of the infested room, and depending on the infestation level, the room above and below may also need treatment. GPM has consistently shown to provide a better and long-term solution to bed bugs infestation.

So, how can we prevent bed bugs from spreading? Firstly, increase public education about bed bugs to escalate public awareness. The power of public awareness has been proven very effective. For instance, 20 years ago, we successfully controlled head lice outbreaks in Canada through active education and information to public. We should apply a similar strategy. Information on ‘Dos and Don’ts’ on bed bugs should be available at schools, public recreation centres, hotels, apartments, hospitals, and so on. Secondly, the GPM approach should be the ONLY pest control program used to control an infestation. This means property management, building and homeowners, and so on should ensure that their pest control provider is applying GPM. Governments should encourage all taxpayer-funded facilities such as homeless shelters, low-income apartments/housing, and so on only to use a pest control company that follows a GPM philosophy.

Hotels and other public accommodation, including hospitals, should use bed bug mattress protectors – covers designed specifically to prevent bed bugs. This protector is inexpensive but very effective in preventing bed bugs from nesting on the mattress. It also prolongs the use of the mattress. Thus, a win-win situation!

For more information please visit: or check our Bed Bug Preparation Steps video.

About the author:

Abell Pest Control is a family owned Canadian company dedicated to providing effective, professional and courteous service in pest management. Abell is proud to announce its 88th year of providing quality pest control services to North America. Started in 1924 with one office, Abell now employs several hundred people with branch offices across Canada and the United States.

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