Archive for Monday, May 2, 2005

Kansans feeling the bite in battle of the bedbugs

May 2, 2005


Bedbugs are making a comeback in Kansas.

And they are biting.

"It's definitely on the rise," said Ludek Zurek, Kansas State University professor of medical entomology, about the growing problem of bedbug infestations. "It seems to be getting worse and worse."

Zurek has been studying the bedbug for years and has been called on by property owners and others to identify the blood-sucking creatures and suggest ways to get rid of them.

Bedbug infestations have not only been reported in homes and apartments but also in high-class hotels and motels.

In Kansas, Zurek said he knew of at least 11 cases of bedbug infestations that have occurred in the past year, mainly in apartment buildings in Lawrence, Manhattan and Topeka.

Lawrence pest exterminator Pete Haley, owner of Haley Pest Control, said he had dealt with five or six instances involving bedbugs during the last 1 1/2 years. He didn't recall seeing any before then. The infestations Haley dealt with were in houses, he said.

Haley told of a family whose daughter had brought back bedbugs after staying in a five-star hotel in Florida during spring break.

"They kind of went crazy and threw the mattress out a big picture window," Haley said.

Bedbugs, or Cimex lectularius, usually only come out at night. They get into mattresses and then come out to chew on sleeping humans and suck their blood. They also can get into cracks in floorboards or walls. An adult bedbug is about the size of an apple seed, while a younger bug may be too small to see, Haley said.

It's not clear why bedbugs, which were common pests until 40 or 50 years ago, are returning, Zurek said. There are two theories. One cites the increased travel to the United States from East Asia and Africa, where bedbugs are common.

"They usually take a ride in the luggage, and that's how people carry them around," Zurek said.

The second theory has to do with insecticides available to the public. Insecticides today are more specific to certain types of insects, such as ants, roaches and termites, but not bedbugs.

The use of the pesticide DDT had led to the eradication of bedbugs 40 years ago, Haley said. Environmental laws now prevent the use of DDT.

If you have a bedbug problem or suspect that you do, the best thing to do is call professional exterminators, Zurek said.

The number of treatments an exterminator has to conduct to get rid of an infestation depends on the type of structure and the sanitary conditions, Haley said. The total cost to get rid of an infestation may range from $100 to $400, Haley said.

"The good news," Zurek said, "is they don't transmit any diseases."

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