Bedbugs a growing problem

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, September 22, 2010

FRANKLIN—After being essentially eradicated in the United States decades ago, the bedbug is back with a vengeance across the nation and in Virginia.

“Some people now are calling it the leading pest of the 21st century,” said Elaine Lidholm, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences.

Unlike other common household pests, bedbugs don’t transmit diseases, Lidholm said.

“In terms of the bedbug versus the mosquito, the bedbug may be worse psychologically, but the mosquito is a far greater pest because it carries so many diseases and can transmit them,” she said.

Rex Millena, a technical advisor with Suffolk Pest Control, which serves Western Tidewater, said bedbug infestations have definitely become a bigger problem “just in the last few years.”

“I’ve been in the business 20 years and prior to that I had never seen a bedbug in my life,” he said. “It’s not anything new, but it’s new to this generation.”

Bedbugs, which are largely resistant to insecticides, can be transported on clothing and luggage, infested furniture and animals and pets. The biggest problems with bedbug infestations are in large cities like New York, Lidholm said.

Orkin, a pest control company with locations around the world, recently released a list of its top 50 bedbug infested American cities based on treatments. Both Richmond/Petersburg and Norfolk/Portsmouth/Newport News made the list, at Nos. 16 and 40, respectively.

Millena said he’s seen bedbugs in apartments, hotels and homes.

“Right now, there is no common place; it’s kind of everywhere,” he said. “Anybody’s susceptible to them.”

Both Millena and Lidholm said bedbug infestations are not a reflection of cleanliness and affect people of all income levels.

“A luxury hotel is every bit as likely to have them as some little dive down on Route 1,” Lidholm said.

Millena suggests people closely check their beds and check clothing and luggage after traveling for any signs of bedbugs. He said black spots are usually a “telltale sign.”

“The biggest thing is just checking for initial signs, if you have initial signs make sure you have a professional take care of it,” he said.

Once they’re discovered, getting rid of bedbugs can become an intensive and expensive ordeal, Millena said. Heat is often used to kill bedbugs; they cannot survive temperatures higher than 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Right now, as an industry, we’re trying to find products that will work long-term,” Millena said. “And it’s been hard to find that.”