Bed Bugs: Inspecting for the New “House Herpes”

Part I

Bed bugs are small, flightless, rust-colored parasites that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Inspectors should learn the telltale signs of these pests and be capable of providing information to their clients.

bed bugs property guidingBed bugs were diminished to an historical footnote after their near-eradication in the 1950s, but they are re-emerging in a big way. At the EPA’s National Bed Bug Summit in 2009, researchers decided that the parasite’s revival is more appropriately termed a pandemic rather than an epidemic, noting its rapid spread across large regions and different continents. For those afflicted by the bug, humiliated and defeated by its persistence, many prefer to refer to the infestation as “house herpes.” The United States has seen a 50-fold increase in bed bug infestations over the last five years, according to the National Pest Management Association. An entomologist told MSNBC, “It’s like the return of the wooly mammoth,” as many of his peers had previously never seen a single bed bug in their careers. The outbreak has affected most parts of North America and Europe, especially in urban areas.

Researchers believe bed bugs have roused from a half-century of hibernation for two reasons: the termination of the use of the pesticide DDT; and a rise in international travel. DDT, a powerful synthetic pesticide, was used widely in agriculture until a public outcry concerning its safety lead to a US-ban of the chemical in 1972, followed by international bans. Unbeknownst to the environmentalists of the time, these laws would permit future outbreaks to grow unchecked, which is precisely what happened when travel increased from countries where bed bugs were never subjugated, such as India.

Hotbeds of international travel, such as New York City, have hosted the bulk of the carnage. The bugs hitch rides from country to country in suitcases, and creep into hotel rooms where other guests are then exposed and unknowingly spread the parasites to movie theatres, cabs, buses, hospitals, houses, and everywhere in between. In New York City, bed bug reports increased 800% from 2008 to 2009, a year in which the Department of Housing Preservation and Development received 13,152 bug infestation complaints.

The unpleasantness of a typical rodent or insect extermination is largely the fee charged by the exterminator. But with bed bugs, this fee is just one piece of a greater nightmare. Because bed bugs are adept at hiding almost anywhere, an alarming quantity of possessions, from curtains to books and picture frames, must be discarded or quarantined. In one posh New York City rental tower, a tenant was forced to part with carpets, bedding, curtains, 20 cashmere sweaters, an Armani suit, a couch, a headboard, a night table, a bedframe, and an exercise bike, according to the New York Daily News. Other victims have had to throw away their books unless they were willing to inspect each one, page by page. Some possessions may be salvaged if they are sealed in special casing long enough for the bed bugs to die, which can takes many months. During this time, residents may be forced to move to temporary housing elsewhere.

Feel free to ask a question or comment below.  You can also contact me at 239-481-3977 OR russell@bestinspector.com

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Posted on July 10, 2012, in Inspections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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