Americans “on their own” for the time being in Bedbug Battle.
The EPA is working with industry experts and researchers to identify new compounds (or new uses for existing compounds) in the bedbug battle. At the Agriculture Department’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., for example, scientists are testing chemicals used to treat agricultural pests to determine whether those could be used against bedbugs.
But research on bedbugs has been very limited in the past several decades, and some researchers say they fear that the federal bureaucracy can’t move fast enough to address the growing infestations. Studies on the public health effects of the bugs have not received much support because even though bedbugs’ bites can provoke allergic reactions, they are not known to spread disease — unlike ticks and mosquitoes. So Americans are on their own in this bedbug battle, at least for now.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has no active projects studying bedbugs, officials said.
We are on our own in the bedbug battle
Regulations governing the mission of each federal agency also tend to limit what the government can do and how fast it can act. “Their hands are pretty well tied,’’ said Phil Koehler, a University of Miami entomologist. “There’s only so much they can do.’’
Meanwhile, this bedbug battle has spread well beyond beds and residential areas, as bedbugs move into very public places. Movie theaters, restaurants, schools, buses, cabs, trains, airliners, motels, hotels, apartments, just about anywhere people go. The bedbug battle is spreading.
“One of the most alarming trends we’ve seen recently is the beginning of what seems like major problems in office buildings,’’ said Wayne White, an entomologist and director of technical services at American Pest, based in Takoma Park, Md. “They’re no longer associated with places where we sleep.’’
Officials say people can prevent bedbugs by sealing cracks and crevices, washing and drying clothing and bed sheets at high temperatures, and vacuuming rugs and upholstered furniture thoroughly and often (and immediately disposing of the bag outside in a sealed trash bag). They also caution against using pesticides that do not have bedbugs listed on the label. Use the right product for the bedbug battle.