U.S., D.C. schedule bedbug summits

By Lena H. Sun
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In keeping with the best of government traditions, the Federal Bed Bug Work Group is hosting its second national summit Feb. 1-2 in Washington to brainstorm about solutions to the resurgence of the tiny bloodsuckers that have made such an itch-inducing comeback in recent years.

The summit will be open to the public, officials said, and will focus on ways the federal government and others can work together to manage and control the pests, which have been showing up in apartment buildings, college dorms, luxury hotels, movie theaters, Manhattan retail stores and increasingly, in office buildings, according to officials and pest management companies.

Several federal agencies participate in the Federal Bed Bug Work Group: the Environmental Protection Agency, the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Defense and Commerce, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The EPA organized the first federal bedbug summit last year. February's meeting is supposed to feature updates from federal, state and local governments, the research community and the housing and pest-management industries, EPA officials said.

The District's health department will host its second bedbug summit Jan. 20 for residents and organizations interested in prevention and eradication. And the National Pest Management Association will host what it has named the National Bed Bug Forum in Denver on Jan. 5-7, to demonstrate new pest-control technologies.

Industry officials say bedbugs are the most difficult pest to treat.

Common household pests for centuries, bedbugs were virtually eradicated in the 1940s and '50s by widespread use of DDT. The insecticide was banned in the 1970s, and the bugs developed resistance to chemicals that replaced it.

Unlike many household pests - ants, termites and cockroaches - bedbugs can live for months without a meal, hidden deep in mattress seams, box springs and baseboard crevices, behind wallpaper and in clutter around beds.

Experts attribute the rise in bedbugs to increased domestic and international travel, lack of knowledge about preventing infestations and increased resistance to pesticides. Bedbugs hitch rides easily from person to person, so they are showing up in all sorts of places, including hotel rooms and nursing homes.

In Honolulu, paramedics have had to decontaminate ambulance interiors and equipment and call ahead to hospital emergency rooms with a bedbug alert, according to news reports.

The CDC is partnering with experts in medicine, epidemiology, entomology and environmental toxicology to better understand the bedbug resurgence and the methods needed for control.

The EPA is working with industry experts and researchers to identify new compounds (or new uses for existing compounds) to control bedbugs. At the Agriculture Department's Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, for example, scientists are testing chemicals used to treat agricultural pests to determine whether those could be used against bedbugs.

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