Bed bugs are continually making media headlines around the world, such is the extent of their presence. But what’s happening in Australia? We asked PPM readers to tell us their experiences of bed bug control in our most recent Pest Pulse survey. 

Bed bugs get a lot of airtime, especially in the media. Certainly in the US, bed bugs appear to be big business, with 57% of pest managers indicating that bed bugs play an important role in their company’s profitability, with over 15% of revenue (on average) generated through bed bug services (source: PCT 2018 State of the Bed Bug Control Market). But what’s the situation in Australia? Well, it appears to be very different.

Although the vast majority of pest professionals (86%) provide bed bug services, most businesses do not receive many calls about bed bugs (Figure 1). At best, bed bugs appear to be an occasional service opportunity for most pest business, with two thirds of pest managers indicating they only get bed bug calls once or twice a month. A quarter of respondents indicated they never get calls about bed bugs.

Figure 1: Frequency of bed bug calls received by pest managers

However, a few companies are receiving up to four calls a week. All but one of the companies reporting more than one bed bug call per week were, perhaps not surprisingly, city-based pest control businesses. With around 15% of city-based business getting up to four calls a week, it seems the bed bug business available is being handled by a few companies.

The survey did not collect enough data to determine whether this was simply a function of the size of the pest control business or whether they actively promoted their bed bug services.

For the pest managers that did not carry out bed bug treatments, the reasons given were fairly evenly split between not being sure how to treat them, being too difficult to control and worried about callbacks, or simply not having received any calls/not the focus of the business.

Although it is clear that the size of the bed bug market in Australia is significantly smaller than in the US, there is some evidence that bed bug prevalence is on the increase, with a third of pest managers suggesting the number of bed bug calls were increasing, with less than 10% indicating they were decreasing.

In terms of bed bug treatments, the use of chemicals formed at least part of the treatment process for nearly 95% of pest managers (Figure 2). Pest managers named 25 different insecticide products they used for bed bug control, with Temprid being the most commonly mentioned product with 21% of pest managers stating they used it. Other frequently mentioned products included Seclira (15%) and Ficam (9%).

Figure 2: The different elements used by pest managers as part of their bed bug treatment process

The use of heat, either through steam treatments (29%) or room heating (16%), was not as frequently reported. However, the use of mattress protectors was included in the treatment process for more than 50% of respondents. Interestingly only 44% of pest managers use vacuuming as part of their treatment process. Vacuuming is a good option prior to treatment – not only will it reduce bed bug numbers but it ensures the areas to be treated are free from dirt, allowing the insecticides to be applied properly for optimal performance.

The vast majority of pest managers (over 90%) planned on at least two visits for a bed bug treatment, with 32% indicating they plan on simply doing as many visits as it takes. It is interesting that 8% of respondents only planned only one visit, as best practice would normally involve returning to the client to con rm the all-clear and allow them to re-enter the treated room. Some of these respondents used heat treatments, so a single visit may be appropriate, but others stated the use of chemical treatments – so a follow up visit would be recommended.

The Bed Bug Code of Practice provides a lot of useful information and recommendations on the various treatment techniques to deliver the best results. Nearly 90% of best managers have heard about the Bed Bug Code of Practice, with approximately three quarters of pest managers trying to follow the recommended procedures. The remaining pest managers either follow the Code of Practice on occasion or indicated they have their own bed bug treatment process that works.

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