Mattress bug circumstances on the rise since 2010

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Bed bugs are making a comeback, but the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is offering an on-demand online course to help keep you and your home safe from this unwanted visitor.

Bed bug infestations are on the rise in the US, and an online IPM course from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can help you identify and prevent infestations. (Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife)

People react viscerally to the words “bed bugs,” said Janet Hurley, an integrated pest specialist at AgriLife Extension in Dallas. You and other AgriLife Extension IPM specialists created a $ 25 online program that teaches people how to effectively protect themselves from pests.

Bed bugs hampered human movement travel for centuries before the pests were finally brought under control in the chemical-heavy age, Hurley said. After chemicals like DDT and organophosphates were taken out of service, they made a comeback.

Pesticide resistance and modern travel habits are driving the pest’s resurgence in the United States, she said.

“Bed bugs haven’t been a problem for decades, but the incidence has continued to increase since 2010,” she said.

Protect your home from bed bugs by yourself

The one hour online course teaches participants how to look for bed bugs, what they look like, how to get rid of them, and modern treatment options.

Picking up bed bugs while staying at a hotel is a common scenario, Hurley said.

“People travel to work or on vacation and they don’t know until they react to the bites. By then, they may have transferred them to other places, including their own homes,” she said. “One of the instructional videos is about how to look for signs of bed bugs in hotel rooms and avoid those little hitchhikers.”

Hurley’s family was caught up in this scenario while on a trip to Italy last year. They didn’t realize that bed bugs were the problem until they returned home and had to treat their suitcases and clothes by stuffing them in freezers for two weeks to kill the pests.

The program is research and fact based and includes simple things any homeowner can do to be aware of and better protected from the infestation, Hurley said.

“The course provides good information, especially for travelers,” she said. “Education is knowledge and it is good to know whether you are going to Europe in the future or going on a weekend trip.”

Taking the course can also give homeowners a good look at questions they might want to ask professional pest controllers who may be entering their home.

People in the pest control industry would also get vital information through the course, Hurley said. The course provides structural training credit from the Texas Department of Agriculture for applicants.

Self-directed, on demand

The course is available upon request and is readily available once an account is created and paid for, Hurley said. Participants can go through it at their own pace and hop on and off at their convenience.

It’s kind of interactive, she said, with slides and photos that contain narration and videos. At the end there is a final examination with an efficiency requirement of 70% for applicants who are looking for a structural training unit for pest management.

The course includes:

  • Reasons bed bugs are making a comeback.
  • How to spot bed bugs and common signs.
  • Health effects of bed bugs.
  • Intervals in the life stage of bed bugs, including life without a host.
  • The importance of proactive detection for apartment managers.
  • The role of wrappers in bed bug management.
  • Use of pitfalls in bed bug management.
  • Five options for handling customers’ wrapped items.
  • Deadly temperatures for bed bugs.
  • Insecticides that are categorized / labeled according to their mode of action for controlling bed bugs.

“The course is worth an hour for anyone who wants their household to have the peace of mind of how bed bugs get into their homes, how to recognize their presence and what to do next,” she said. “It’s just good, direct information to know.”

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