There's one thing on which top entomologists agree: the current bed bug infestation has not yet reached its peak in the U.S.
According to experts, the current surge in U.S. bed bug infestations began around 2004, but didn't hit the national news until 2010, when multi-unit dwellings began to experience issues with the pesky bugs. Data from the 2013 Bugs without Borders Survey by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) confirmed that 98 percent of pest management professionals encountered a bed bug infestation during the past 12 months in an apartment or condominium, up from 90 percent in 2011.
"Bed bugs have been a hot topic in the news during the past several years; especially when a new geographical area is infested or bed bugs are discovered in public places such as hotels or shopping centers," said Dini Miller, Ph. D., Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech. "Unfortunately, people have become desensitized to the issue, leading them to believe the risk has decreased, but the issue is actually greater than before."
Pest control companies and businesses that sell products to prevent or control bed bugs echo the observation that the war against bed bugs is probably not going away any time soon.
"Since 2010, sales of mattress and box spring encasements have continued to increase each year," said James Bell, CEO of Protect-A-Bed. "Every major pest control company in the United States buys our products, which they sell to individuals fighting a bed bug infestation. The demand for product has certainly not slowed down."
Bugs without Borders survey respondents reported an increase in bed bug infestations at a variety of public places, including schools, day care centers, hospitals, libraries and on public transportation. Based on these reports, top entomologists also agree on several other emerging trends.
People with bed bug issues tend to experience unnecessary anxiety
If you ask anyone who has experienced an infestation in his home, he will likely elaborate on the stress, anxiety and financial burden caused by the unwelcome bugs.
"There are pockets of the country where both the cost and the stigma associated with bed bugs are barriers to getting help," said James Sargent, PhD. and director of technical support and regulatory compliance for Copesan, a commercial pest management company. "The bottom line is there is no need to freak out. Bed bugs do not typically spread disease and aside from temporary marks that itch, the bites are not lasting. A bed bug infestation can be quickly and effectively managed with the right tools. Eventually, this issue will be a pest control problem which can be approached in a similar way to how we currently handle cockroaches and termites."
Public places still pose a bed bug risk
Most of the experts also predicted a continued increase in bed bug colonies outside the home, in places like hotels, libraries and office buildings because people often don't know they have bed bugs in their homes and unknowingly transport the pests into public spaces.
According to Jeff White, technical director at BedBug Central, all public places need to have specific policies in place that outline how to monitor for and address the bed bug issue because of the potential risk to the business or organization.
"Public awareness of the issue has increased, but it's the responsibility of all industries to institute policies to address the risk of bed bugs, which will help slow the spread," White said.
Education is the key to prevention
Anyone can be affected by bed bugs in their home, regardless of their income or geographical location. Top entomologists agreed that education about what a bed bug is, how to spot it and how to avoid bringing it into the home are the most critical tools in prevention.
"Avoid bringing bed bugs home by being very careful of what you carry into your house," Miller said. "If you use diligence while traveling, you'll be significantly more likely to avoid an infestation.
Published with permission from RISMedia.