Pest Pulse – Bed Bug Survey 2024

It has been a few years since our last Pest Pulse survey on bed bugs. So what are pest managers reporting about bed bug work now in 2024?

It’s been five years since Professional Pest Manager magazine ran a bed bug survey. So, following the high level of media exposure resulting from the bed bug ‘outbreak’ in Paris and its potential impact on the Olympics, it seemed like a good time to see what might be happening with bed bugs in Australia.

The first point to make about the survey is that, although it was open to all pest managers to reply, it is likely that the responses were biased towards pest managers who have an interest in bed bugs or offer bed bug services. Nevertheless, it does allow comparison with the survey sent out five years ago and still provides valuable insights.

Given the media reports of increasing bed bug numbers in the US, Europe and Asia, one of the key questions we asked is if pest managers are seeing a rise in bed bug work in Australia. When asked this question directly, 37% of pest managers said bed bug calls were increasing, 48% said they were about the same and 15% said they were decreasing. These figures were not dissimilar to the situation five years ago. But when asked how many bed bug calls they were receiving, only 16% of pest managers were getting one or more calls per week, with the majority only receiving one or two calls per month (67%). This doesn’t sound like phones are ringing off the hook?!

Interestingly, a number of pest managers commented that a large number of their bed bug callouts aren’t actually for bed bugs, but likely cases of delusional parasitosis. One pest manager voiced their frustration that on more than one occasion they were called to deal with a ‘bed bug problem’ based on a diagnosis from the customer’s doctor. However, on inspection, no bed bugs were found, but to convince the customer otherwise was impossible.

In terms of actually dealing with bed bugs, 85% of pest managers who responded said they had read the AEPMA Code of Practice for Control of Bed Bug Infestation in Australia. This is essential reading for anyone carrying out bed bug work. All of the pest managers who read the Code of Practice tried to follow its recommendations for inspections and treatments, at least some of the time.

When asked how many visits the pest manager planned on making to deal with a ‘normal’ bed bug infestation, just over half indicated they had planned on two or three visits, with 36% saying they did as many visits as it takes and 8% saying they only planned on one visit. When asked the average price they charge per room, prices ranged from $100 to $1000, with the average being $370.

A range of treatment options are available and indeed recommended as part of the AEPMA Code of Practice, especially given the increasing resistance issues with bed bug populations. Liquid chemical treatments still form the core part of any bed bug treatment with 100% of respondents saying they use liquid products as part of the treatment process. Dust products were also used by 58% of respondents. Physical methods are also important and around a third of pest managers use vacuuming as part of their pre-treatment. Although actual heat treatments are used by only 13% of respondents, nearly a quarter were using steam treatments. Nearly half of respondents were recommending the use of mattress encasements (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1: The different elements used by pest managers as part of their bed bug treatment process

 

In terms of the actual products used, pest managers are using a wide variety, mentioning 33 different products! The most commonly mentioned product was Seclira, mentioned by 21% of pest managers, with Temprid and Ficam both mentioned by 10% of respondents. Interestingly, no respondent mentioned using the nonchemical dust products based on diatomaceous earth and amorphous silica, which have been identified as good options as part of the bed bug management armoury.