Bed Bugs Are Back: Are We Ready? available from WoodGreen

Bed Bugs Are Back: Are We Ready? (PDF) — the new Toronto report from WoodGreen Community Services, Habitat Services and Public Interest is now available for download at the website of WoodGreen Community Services.

[To be updated.] Sorry, I’m still reading this extraordinarily ambitious work. It is simply a must read and you should spend some quality time with this report yourself. We’ll examine it in full in another post.

The researchers conducted an amazing number of interviews with people in Toronto and the world over. Bed bug world people, stakeholders in Toronto, landlords, social and health services workers, sufferers, everyone. Imagine an intelligent interviewer asking the important questions and getting at the essence of the bed bug problem.

I think excerpts don’t do this report justice and I wish you will read this yourself. From a bed bug sufferer profile, page 35:

Most importantly, I became so isolated. To be honest, until you go through it, you have no idea just how horrifying it really is. It is just natural for you to become paranoid; you lose sleep, you end up dreaming and thinking about bed bugs—they just consume every fibre of your being. I had to isolate myself from my family and friends; I did not want anyone coming over. I was too afraid that they would bring bed bugs home. This was very difficult for me because you need someone to talk to because it is awful … very awful. There were many days that I did not see an end in sight.

I do want to share one more thing for now. Some resourceful researcher at Public Interest got the full walking bed bugs story straight from Permakil’s Erich Hardebeck! Remember this? Page 11:

While bed bugs are known to travel unit to unit, they are also known to walk from building to building in severe and exceptional cases. Eric Hardebeck of Permakil, an American pest control company, reported bed bugs crawling through an alley in broad daylight, climbing up the sides of a building and crawling along telephone wires to enter into an apartment building adjacent to the alley. Bed bugs were found running out into the street, and some had been run over by cars. The bed bugs had survived in mattresses discarded in the alley and by feeding on homeless people who were using the mattresses. The infestation had reached such high levels that the bugs were mobile outside during the day.70

Mercy. That may be the bed bug story to end all bed bug stories.


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  2. Sam Bryks

    ReL walking bed bugs
    interesting story…..
    i wonder about the proximity of these adjacent buildings. I never would reject an anecdotal observation out of hand without substantial contrary evidence or some explanation, but when it seems to go against the broad experience, it takes some scrutiny and careful examination.
    Considering the bed bug experience prior to the late 50′s , one would expect that researchers like Usinger and others would have reported observations of pest control people through a few centuries of dealing with this pest as a most common occurrence, therefore i am skeptical of the observation as a general concern, but most interested in it as a specific observation.
    If buildings were within a foot or two or less of each other as is sometimes the case in city centres, then this is not at all surprising.. even if perhaps rare. We know from recent studies that certain factors do encourage bed bug spread such as increase in numbers and females avoiding the risk of multiple matings that could kill them.
    Bed bugs run over in the street from discarded mattresses is really insects in dire circumstances – out in the open where they could die or have been disturbed or shaken off mattresses when in large numbers, but as a pattern of behaviour — not very likely in my opinion.
    I think that the study of bed bug biology in nature will likley reveal more about their behaviour that can be related back to the human habitat situation. If we think of bat bugs in bat nurseries that are vacant much of the time and their adaptations to waiting for return of hosts, it sort of tells a lot about why they can survive so long without hosts. Do they sometimes stay on hosts? I have wondered abut that.. not as a usual behaviour, but thinking of a feeding bedbug findings itself in flight.. would it hang on for dear life on feathers or fur? Not by design, but by accident.. and be transported to another nesting situation? I don’t know. but one would expect some kind of spread mechanism or if bats had to find a new nursery because the old one had collapsed, then what? Mind you some of the caves in which bats live have been there for tens or thousands of years as geological formations.
    but at end, i just don’t think that a spread between two buidings separated by some reasonable distance would likely exchange infestations easily…
    now having said all of that, i think of a colony of red ants i saw as a boy at a driveway excavation that were moving in thousands to a new nest.. over some distance… keeping in mind that ants do forage over some considerable distance…..
    go figure!!!!
    i am staying tuned…!!!!!

  3. Renee Corea

    You are something of a skeptic on these things, Sam (I remember your across the hall dispersal doubts). I’ll have to find lots of references then! I personally have no inclination to underestimate them.

  4. Sam Bryks

    I had forgotten about my comment about bed bugs across the hall. This was mentioned in Woodgreen’s review paper, as i recall, based on Doggett’s Code of Practice in Australia. I remain unconvinced that this is likely as a common occurrence, except perhaps by exception in the most extreme of cases .. some have coined as superinfestations, and I prefer the term “reservoir” . i.e. pest reservoir.. Superinfestation as i think i recall it was used recently in a workshop .. just sounds like a Marvel characterization to me. Are we going to call them Super Bed Bugs… as we search for kryptonite .. the magic bullet..?
    I personally was surprised at the across the hall recommendation until Clive Boase explained the context to me… in the hotel setting.
    We have limited resources as we try to address these problems, so i am hesitant to set a policy that increases work that may be of little benefit. I once had some tenants demand that hallways be sprayed monthly for fear of bed bugs harboring in carpet edges in the hallways, but when the carpets were removed, I had my staff visit a site and search for bed bugs in a known major infested building, and they did not fine ONE in the hallway.. NOT ONE… but they did find roaches.. and roach nymphs easily mistaken for bed bugs by the untrained obvserver. Now, this might change if someone does a study in apartments, and finds a link between an infested unit and one across the hall, but i remain unconvinced that this is a reality till i see hard evidence to the contrary.. I have a data set from two high rises of about 12o units each, and did find links between infested units with the highest risk in adjacent units, and then those above and below.. but this was an overview based on a year of service requests rather than a tightly controlled review including the time factor , so i take the outcomes mostly as patterns rather than confirmed in every case..,. still the trend was higher in adjacents on the same floor than on floors above or below… I will look at this again in terms of adjacents.. let you know if i am able to do a reasonable analysis…. Perhaps a firm like Orkin with much greater resources might look at this..
    or one of the dog detection firms that has done entire building surveys…
    it can mean a lot one way or the other.. no use in wasting resources to no effect. but of course, in the hotel industry it is a different scenerio with a direct causal relationship.

  5. Renee Corea

    The source of the across the hall dispersal observation is Changlu Wang.

    Dismissing this observation simply because you once inspected a building and did not find any is not persuasive.

    If buildings cannot afford across the hall inspections, a point I definitely grant because I know very well that everything to do with bed bug control is unaffordable, then they can inform those tenants, educate them about monitors and the possibility of no bite reactions, and give them a fighting chance.

  6. Sam Bryks

    I have been promoting alerts to tenants since about 2003 .
    I would not dismiss inspecting a building out of hand in this context. I sent my staff specifically to check this out without a preconceived notion that it was not true.. I was, in fact, worried about this. The idea of having to spray hallways.. ugh!…
    tenants agreed to have carpets removed because of the worry and also because the carpets were not very attractive and hard to keep clean. If someone shows me that bed bugs now are harbored in hallways under carpets .. well i will agree to this newly observed behaviour and recant my view, but so far, no reason to consider that the observation was not supportive of bed bugs being in units and not in hallways… even if they might be in a hallways in transit sometimes. We just did not find any.. and it was a 23 storey site with lots of infestation.
    I would be interested in the reference about across the hall.. of course..
    getting rid of bed bugs is very costly and therefore effective use of resources is very importantl. If we add a cost of inspecting an opposite hall unit and the evidence may be that this is not common, or rare.. well, i don’t see it as useful. If we find that this happens a lot in moderate or severe cases, then we need a new IPM Decision Rule.. when unit on one side is severely infested, then check opposite unit as well as the block..
    but at this moment, i am not convinced..
    nor do i presume that i could not be wrong. of course I could be wrong.
    that is what science is about and what learning is about..


  7. sam bryks

    thanks for the links.. reading my post there, amazing how sometimes our thoughts have a certain structure even months apart.
    As noted earlier, I don’t exclude the possibility of across the hall, but patterns of spread can seem simple on the surface, but may have underlying complexities that are not seen easily. In the past when i first started in the industry, I spent a lot of hours inspecting food plants, actually being taken to a major account by my then new first employer int he business, and introduced to the Q.C. Manager as the new Branch Co-ordinator, and set loose to inspect the place when I had essentially ZERO experience. I inspected that place once a week for nearly 8 years. It was initially a “boot camp” learning experience, when the Q.C. guy asked me what I thought about controlling psocids which was a foreign term to me that I could not spell let alone visualize. Yes, I had a background in Zoology, and some training in Invertebrate Zoology, but I was no entomologist then. But l soon learned what “psocids” were about (booklice he said.. and I said, oh, OK.. whatever the hell book lice meant .. ) I sure found out fast, and by the time of my leaving the firm, I had solved the problem of “psocids” in the food plant.
    I am sharing this in the context of how all of us in the industry knew almost NOTHING about bed bugs a few years ago, and that includes all the stars, including Potter and Pinto, Cooper and Kells and Frishman too.. It has been a quick learn with many of us reading Usinger, and the research in the area growing so fast.
    So for the issue of across the hall, well, I reserve my judgment on that, and still don’t see it as an established pattern, but if studies show otherwise, I’ll have to revise my thinking. Some studies show that the ability of bed bugs to find a host is fairly short range, and one thinks this is in keeping with the natural setting of bat bugs and swallow bugs, Of course, 20 feet is also noted as the distance bed bugs can travel to and from victim, but is this mitigated by bed bug pheromones in some way?? I have never heard of trails..
    I still am not convinced that across the hall is a common pathway.
    We shall see.


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