Bed Bugs – What the Nation Thinks
By Chris Williams on August 31, 2011.
The National Pest Management Association, which is the trade association for pest control companies, recently conducted a series of nationwide surveys among both citizens and pest control companies to find out what the nation is really thinking about bed bugs.
· We know that bed bugs now occur in all 50 states and their occurrence is pretty evenly spread across the country: 17% of all respondents in the Northeast have encountered bed bugs, 20% in the Midwest, 20% in the South, and 19% in the West. Pest control companies report that 98% of their bed bug customers are upset and concerned about the problem.
· Americans who have encountered bed bugs tend to be younger, live in urban areas, and rent their homes. It’s probably not surprising that the incidence of bed bugs is three times higher in urban areas than in rural areas due to increased population density combined with the increased mobility and travel of city dwellers.
· Most Americans are concerned about bed bugs and believe that bed bug infestations in the U.S. are increasing. Nearly 80% of citizens are concerned about encountering bed bugs at hotels, 52% on public transportation; 49% in movie theaters, 44% in retail stores, 40% in medical facilities, 36% in places of employment, and 32% are worried about coming in contact with bed bugs in friends’ homes.
· Americans are changing their behavior to avoid bed bugs. Twenty-seven percent have checked or washed clothing after a trip; 29% have washed new clothing after bringing it home from the store; 16% have inspected secondhand furniture brought into their home. Of those respondents who knew someone with a bed bug infestation in their home: 40% have avoided entering the infested home, and 33% have discouraged someone with bed bugs from visiting their home.
· Pest control companies report that 25% of their customers attempted to control the bed bugs on their own before contacting a professional. This number is down from an average of 38% a year earlier, suggesting that the do-it-yourself approach is becoming less popular. Customers who do try to eradicate bed bugs themselves often use methods that are both ineffective and dangerous such as the use of unregistered insecticides, use of open flames or propane heaters, or flammable chemicals like kerosene or bleach. Seventy-three percent of pest control companies picked bed bugs as the most difficult pest to control.
· Despite widespread exposure to information, most Americans know little about bed bugs. Nearly half of the survey respondents incorrectly believe that bed bugs transmit disease. Other misconceptions: 29% believe bed bugs are more common among lower income households, and 37% believe bed bugs are attracted to dirty homes.
· Most pest control companies report that bed bug infestations are a year-round phenomenon with no seasonal peaks. But 25% of companies say that they get a spike in bed bug complaints during the summer as people travel more and pick up bed bugs while on vacation.
· Pest control companies say that the incidence of bed bugs has gone up everywhere, but especially in nonresidential sites like office buildings and schools. For example, in 2010, 35% of pest control companies had treated college dorms for bed bugs, in 2011 the number was 54%. In 2010, 18% of companies had treated office buildings, in 2011 that number was 38%. In just the past year, the number of companies that had treated for bed bugs in movie theaters went up from 5% to 17%.
Bed bugs are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Americans will have to learn to live with their presence. Learn how to protect yourself and your family, how to check for bed bugs, and what to do if you find them. There are many, many resources available on the Internet, mostly from various state governments. The National Pest Management Association also has a bed bug website just for consumers at www.allthingsbedbugs.org/