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Q&A ON EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEDBUGS – INFORMATION IS POWER!

 

Bed Bugs Bite

Bed Bugs Bite

Do you know that the bloodsuckers called bedbugs are here again? But this time, it seems they are back with a vengeance, giving their victim itchy red marks which result to social stigmatization. For many years, we have been celebrating the funeral of bedbugs, but our joy has been cut off by their reemergence in hotels, offices, schools, houses, and all over US cities.

Louis Sorkin is an entomologist who has researched vastly on bedbugs. He kept four jars containing bugs, which he feeds. He works at the American Museum of Natural History. LiveScience was able to interview him, and below are the excerpts.

When Did The Reappearance Begin?

The first time I saw a live bedbug was in the 1980s when someone brought it to me, but it was in the 1990s that many people started being infected.

What Do You Think Is The Cause Of Current Reappearance?

The primary reason for the sudden reappearance, I believe, is because the public was not educated on how to identify and monitor bedbugs. Therefore, as the bugs increased in number, nobody cared to raise the alarm until it took everyone by surprise.

Is It True That The Ban On DDT Pesticide In 1972, As Reported By Some News Outlets, Played A Role?

That’s not true. Bedbugs and other insects started resisting DDT in the late 1940s and early 1950s; that was why there was an instruction to replace the DDT with new insecticides that were more efficient.

You Said DDT And Pyrethroids Have The Same “Killing Mechanism.” How Has This Encouraged The Reappearance Of Bedbugs?

…bedbugs have an internal mechanism that neutralizes the power of the newer pyrethroids; nevertheless, there are others that work well, which the bugs could not resist… It is crucial to understand that eradicating bedbugs require the use of different classes of insecticides incorporated into an integrated pest management system, which includes the use of a vacuum cleaner, monitoring the population of the bedbugs, using steam to kill the bugs and their eggs, and covering up cracks by painting or caulking.

Did Any Other Thing Contribute To The Resurgence?

The insecticides that are being used over the years have been reduced to baiting systems for ants and cockroaches. Another reason is that the Pest Management Manuals used by Technicians that work for Pest Management Company ignored the importance of educating people on bedbugs. Hence, bedbugs were not in the mind of anyone.

Contributing to its resurgence is that when the bedbug infestations began, people were not properly educated, and the bug infestations were handled like cockroach infestations while they rapidly multiplied. More attention should be paid to details on bedbugs to know their harboring areas and to ascertain the kind of products appropriate for treatment.

What Should We Expect? Will Infestations Get Worse?

For now, I think, it will continue for some time until we have better detecting devices, and cleaning approach or solution. There should also be an extensive education of the people to change their behaviors as to reduce the infestation rate.

What Are The Behaviors That Should Change?

I think the attitude of not being cautious and alert to the possibility of bedbug infestations at the hotels where you stay as you travel, and at home, should be changed. Another thing that could help is passing a new law on bedbug. The law may require people to perform bedbug preventive measures in their new apartment before moving in; people may be told to construct buildings in certain ways that could reduce the population of bugs. Legislation may be put in place to allow for open investigation of areas in homes and offices that are hidden from view to perform the appropriate cleaning approach.

BEDBUG BASICS

Do All Bedbugs Look The Same?

According to Sorkin, there are five immature stages; the egg goes without being noticed. The first instar (nymph) is translucent white; it continues through a straw color and up through the fifth instar (nymph). The nymphs range from being plump and red to nearly being flat and having dark brown masses of blood digested in their gut. Meanwhile, fed adults are fat and reddish brown; and their length is about a quarter-inch. But the first instar (nymph) which is immature has the range of the thickness of a credit card.

Do Bedbugs Spread Disease?

From the time research on bedbugs began about 50 years ago when they caused serious concerns and then subsided, to this day that it has resurfaced again, there is no particular evidence that they transmit pathogens to people. Even the 20 to 40 different pathogens found in the body of bedbugs are because they fed on humans who have these pathogens present in their blood. Studies showed that they never transferred these pathogens to the next host.

Did You Become Interested In Bedbugs When You Saw That First Live Bedbug?

Yes, I did, in the 1980s. From then I have been communicating with people who do research on bedbugs with one of them raising a population of bugs he collected in the early 1970s from Fort Dix, an Army Base in New Jersey. This individual told me he could send me a jar of bedbugs if I wanted; since then, I have been raising and watching bugs, and now have four jars of bedbugs which I feed… on my arms and legs, especially in my arms. Some jars are now very crowded.

What Have You Learned By Watching Them?

These bedbugs have a very healthy appetite. Watching their behavior before giving them food is fascinating. Seeing the way they gather together after they have been fed, how they relate to one another, how they clean themselves, is something fascinating.

What Do Their Mouthparts Look Like?

Their mouthparts form a piercing system comprising maxillary stylets and mandibular. They are like modified slender for cutting and piercing, with a left and right side. Canals are built in the center when the right and left side connects – the central canal for sucking blood up and a small canal for injecting saliva. The saliva contains anticoagulation components and components for anesthesia.

How Does It Feel Like, Having Bedbugs Feed On You?

Initially, when I had not experienced it, I was not sure what my reaction would be to have hundreds of bedbugs feast on me at the same time. When I tried it, the area became red and swollen but to my surprise I did not feel any itching at all, even until now there is no itching. Today, the reaction has drastically reduced from my first experience.

This may also reflect what happens in a natural setting whereby people in a home where these bedbugs have been for up to 5 to 10 years get used to the bites and no longer experience severe reactions.

Does Itching Normally Accompany Bites?

No, it depends on the individual. Some people do not experience any reaction when bitten by a bedbug, including some dog handlers. On the other hand, some people experience severe reactions on their skin. I observe that if people do not scratch the bedbug’s bite, the itching may quickly stop.

 

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