Drawing on his thirty plus years’ experience, Bayer’s Jim Westhead offers his insights into how best to manage bed bug infestations.
Having worked in the pest management industry for over 32 years, Bayer territory sales manager, Jim Westhead, has seen more than his fair share of challenging bed bug infestations.
With the prevalence of bed bug outbreaks on the rise, theories abound as to the cause. According to Mr Westhead, increased travel around the country and overseas is certainly a factor, however there are also other theories as to why infestations are on the rise.
“One theory is resistance, while another is that the traditional breeding ground for bed bugs – backpacker accommodation, hostels, cheap hotels and so on, are not being regularly sprayed and treated like they were ten years ago,” Mr Westhead explained.
According to Mr Westhead, in the past, premises were treated by both the property owner and pest managers with regular spraying with organophosphates to control cockroach infestations, but which had the added benefit of controlling bed bugs with the same treatment. However, in more recent years, cockroach gels have largely replaced spraying and as a result, bed bug populations have been left unchecked and are increasing.
“Feedback from customers indicates not only an increase in infestations, but they’re finding them in more obscure places, not just in beds!”
Mr Westhead said one pest manager reported finding a bed bug infestation in an armchair at a nursing home facility, a not so pleasant surprise for the elderly resident who regularly took an afternoon nap there.
So what should pest managers do? Mr Westhead suggests they “think outside the square – or in this case, the bed!”
As with any pest treatment, a thorough inspection is the key to success. Female bed bugs once impregnated look for areas that allow them to incubate their young without risking attacks by voracious male bed bugs who continually attempt to reproduce, often violently.
“The mothers-to-be will hide in carpets, curtains, picture frames, electrical fittings and bed heads – the list goes on,” Mr Westhead said.
Implementing an appropriate treatment program can be a challenge, with many hotel and motel owners and managers reluctant to support control programs due to the prohibitive costs of potentially having to remove or destroy infected objects such as mattresses and televisions. Mr Westhead recommends pest managers talk to their client and educate them about the infestation so they can support, rather than hinder, their control program.
He suggests providing clients with a customer preparation guide which should list before and after treatment procedures, such as ensuring clutter is removed from floors and walls, linen washed in hot water and beds left unmade, items removed from drawers and cupboards and that a thorough vacuum is done throughout the premises.
After treatment, clients should ensure mattresses are completely dry prior to re-making beds and using them (this can be up to 48 hours after treatment), and floors and skirting boards not washed or vacuumed until at least 7 to 10 days after treatment, advised Mr Westhead.
“There are non-chemical options available to treat infestations such as steam, heat and even freeze treatments. These methods are used to kill bed bugs on contact, but there is no doubt it’s difficult to treat obscure cracks and crevices like electrical switches, tubular bed frames and so on. Unless a chemical residual is applied, a new infestation not only can occur but most likely will,” Mr Westhead warned.
“There are places for repellent chemicals, but a bed bug infestation is not one of them. The use of repellents may kill on contact, but sprays can push bugs deeper within their harbourage and their ability to survive long periods without a blood meal or moult, means they can outlast many repellent treatments,” Mr Westhead explained. “Non-repellent sprays to cracks and crevices will allow the product to kill the insect on contact because they won’t avoid the sprayed area.”
Bayer recommends two products for the residual treatment of bed bugs: Ficam W, a non-repellent carbamate; and Temprid75, which contains the repellent SP beta-cyfluthrin and which is countered by the non-repellent imidacloprid, making it ideal as a bed bug residual and crack and crevice spray.