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WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BED BUGS?

By Zachary Ciras on March 15, 2021.

Most people probably haven’t given bed bugs a second thought in the past year. But if you work in pest control or in certain bed bug-prone businesses, you might be wondering what happened to bed bugs. Were they killed off by the pandemic, or what? We don’t seem to hear about them anymore.

Let me assure you, bed bugs are still around and will no doubt become news again once people resume their routines, including visiting friends and family, commuting, and traveling.

LACK OF TRAVEL DESERVES MUCH OF THE CREDIT

There are several reasons why we haven’t heard much about bed bugs or received many complaints, even in our line of work: Maybe the main reason bed bugs are reduced is the lack of personal and business travel in the past year. Not just international travel, or airplane and cruise travel, but even domestic travel within the U.S. How many families took a vacation last year and stayed in hotels? How many kids went off to summer camp? Even beach resorts suffered from lack of visitors. Bed bug numbers have been reduced significantly in stores, lodging, schools, movie theaters, transportation, and other public facilities.

Local travel from home to the office has been greatly reduced, as well. Bed bugs that hitchhike between locations on personal belongings and are routinely carried from one site to another have had to shelter in place instead.

Bed bug infestations that are already entrenched in places like apartment complexes may have been affected very little by the pandemic. In fact, these populations may have increased while pest control services inside resident apartments have been reduced as we socially distance.

WHAT’S IN THE FUTURE, BED BUG-WISE?

A Close up of a Bed Bug (Cimex lectularius)

In the same way that precautions taken to avoid COVID-19 have also significantly reduced cases of seasonal flu and colds, necessary lifestyle changes that mean less travel or less personal contact have affected bed bug distribution. However, we don’t expect this bed bug reprieve to last for long. Bed bugs are incredibly resilient and can survive for months waiting patiently in vacant offices or empty hotels for another blood meal (= person) to appear. They can also feed on rodents that may be increasing in their sites. A blood meal leads to egg laying, and more generations of bed bugs.

Bed bug experts, including those working in pest control, say we should take advantage of this lull. When facilities are empty or nearly so, now is the time to wage war against the vulnerable bed bugs that are still inside and just laying low. Experts advocate using this opportunity to inspect sites for bed bugs, institute control measures against bed bugs when people aren’t present, and even make some structural changes so that buildings are less suitable for bed bug occupancy in the future.

Many changes in our lifestyles in the past year are expected to become permanent or semi-permanent. Many folks who have been working full time at home instead of going into the office are expected to continue that routine for the most part. We may never resume some of the close contact behaviors that were so conducive to spreading both COVID and bed bugs. But still, expect bed bugs to come back strong when the country opens up.

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