Bed Bugs Are Becoming Increasingly Difficult To Kill

The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is becoming increasingly difficult to eradicate. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, the pesky parasites have developed a resistance to two popular insecticides, chlorfenapyr and bifenthrin. This is in addition to a host of other chemicals – including deltamethrin – to which bed bugs have previously demonstrated resistance.


Bifenthrin and deltamethrin are pyrethroids that target the insects’ nervous systems, while chlorfenapyr attacks cell mitochondria. Bifenthrin is available in household insecticide granules and sprays, whereas chlorfenapyr is generally used by professional pest exterminators.


To test the effectiveness of the pesticides, Purdue University researchers collected ten bed bug populations from various US States and exposed them to the chemicals for a period of one week. They discovered that more than a quarter of bed bugs survived exposure to bifenthrin, and many displayed reduced susceptibility to chlorfenapyr.


“The longer you use any product for the control of a particular pest, the more resistance issues you are going to have,” said professor Ameya Gondhalekar, lead author of the study. Gondhalekar cautions that while these pesticides may still be useful against some bed bug populations, they should be used carefully to prevent the creatures from developing even more resistance.


The ineffectiveness of these pesticides is one of the main reasons for the rise in bed bug infestations over the past decade, particularly in major cities. Experts caution that infestations can no longer be reliably treated using chemicals alone, and that better success may be achieved by pairing chemicals with alternative methods like steam, heat and desiccant dust – although these solutions do tend to be more expensive.


“People from academia have been promoting the use of integrative approaches for years, but the cost of non-chemical methods can be prohibitive,” said Gondhalekar.


A survey by the University of Kentucky in 2015 found that over two thirds of pest management professionals rated bed bugs to be the most challenging pest to eradicate – more difficult than ants, cockroaches or termites. And although bed bugs aren’t usually considered dangerous, there is some research to suggest the bugs might spread Chagas disease in parts of the world where this condition is prevalent.


Nevertheless, bed bug bites are known to cause itchy red bites and sleepless night, and infestations are often time-consuming and expensive to control. Fortunately there are several simple steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of infestation, such as regular vacuuming, using an anti-bed bug mattress cover, and taking precautions when sleeping in hotels. If you frequently monitor your home for bed bugs, then you’re more likely to catch the problem early, when it’s much easier to treat.

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