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Bed Bugs

Study discovers why consumers are bringing home more bed bugs

Researchers say the pests are attracted to your dirty laundry

A recent University of Sheffield study finds that bed bugs are spreading to new areas around the world by attaching themselves to dirty laundry left out in sleeping areas.

Lead author Dr. William Hentley says that the finding may explain why bed bugs have undergone a resurgence in recent years, as consumers are likely picking up the pests when traveling and staying in hotels.

“There are a lot of good studies out there focused on trying to understand how bed bugs are attra...

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    Thanksgiving travel can increase bed bug exposure

    The tiny pests can lurk in hotel rooms and even grandma's guest room

    Thanksgiving is the busiest travel time of the year. According to AAA, more than 48 million Americans are going to travel at least 50 miles from home.

    At the risk of intruding on the warm family feelings of the holiday, or increasing your paranoia, we nonetheless are passing on this warning from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA): Thanksgiving can increase bed bug risks.

    That's because bed bugs tend to get around by attaching themselves to clothing or bedding in homes and hotels. Travelers who stay the night in one of these places run the risk of taking the tiny pests home in their suitcases.

    Look for evidence

    “The best advice I can give to those traveling over the holidays is to be on the lookout for evidence of bed bug activity at all times,” said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for NPMA.

    The bugs are so small you probably aren't going to be able to see them. Mannes says what you will see are signs of their presence, such as pepper-like stains on fabric-covered items, and molted bed bug skins.

    In some cases you may see the actual bugs at various stages in their lifecycle – things like white eggs and empty egg casings.

    Inspection

    Whether you're staying in a hotel or a relative's guest room, Mannes suggests carefully inspecting the room for bed bug evidence before settling in. It's a good idea to pull back the bed sheets to examine the mattress seams, checking behind the headboard and looking in furniture crevices. If you are staying in a relative's home, you no doubt want to do this discretely.

    A small flashlight can come in handy during your investigation. If you find evidence of bed bug infestation in a hotel, you should, by all means, notify management and request a different room. If you find bed bugs in a private home, the response is a little trickier. However, you'll need to find a way to bring it to the homeowner's attention.

    Vacuum and wash

    As a final precaution, Mannes suggests travelers vacuum their luggage and wash and dry all clothes – even those that have not been worn – on high heat when returning home.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers travelers some additional bed bug tips. For example, the agency suggests emptying suitcases directly into the washing machine upon returning home. It says drying on high heat will usually kill them.

    Store suitcases in the basement or garage. Keep them out of bedrooms and never store them under a bed.

    Thanksgiving is the busiest travel time of the year. According to AAA, more than 48 million Americans are going to travel at least 50 miles from home.A...

    Orkin updates its list of cities with the worst bedbug problem

    Chicago claims 2015's dubious honor

    It's that time of year again. Pest control company Orkin has released it annual list that no city wants to be on: locations with the worst bedbug problems.

    This year, Chicago claims first place, based on Orkin service calls at both residential and commercial property. Besides Chicago, the Midwest is heavily represented on the 2015 list.

    Fourteen cities in the Midwest – more than any other region – are in the top 50, including multiple cities in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky. Also of note, six cities rose by double-digits on the annual list compared to 2014, including Washington, D.C., which moved to third.

    On the positive side, a number of cities improved their bedbug situation from 2014, including Dayton, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky., and Sacramento, California.

    The top 10 for 2015 are:

    1. Chicago
    2. Los Angeles
    3. Washington, D.C.
    4. New York
    5. Columbus, Ohio
    6. Philadelphia
    7. Detroit
    8. Cincinnati
    9. Richmond-Petersburg, Va.
    10. Baltimore

    Easy to pick up

    “Bed bugs can travel in luggage and other personal belongings to enter your home,” Orkin Entomologist and Technical Services Director Ron Harrison said in the release. “They don’t just hide in beds – they can be found in furniture, bed posts, rugs, and even electrical outlets.”

    Orkin says bed bugs are not necessarily a sign of uncleanliness. They can show up anywhere, even upscale hotels. However, they can be a health issue.

    As we reported in 2013, a California woman sued the Renaissance Marriott Hotel in Palm Springs, claiming she was bitten by bed bugs more than 400 times while sleeping at the hotel. The woman said she faced permanent scarring to her face, body, and hands.

    However, the Mayo Clinic says bedbug bites are normally a mild irritation. It says they are often difficult to distinguish from other insect bites, “however, they are typically itchy, and they may appear clustered or lined up in rough rows.  

    It's that time of year again. Pest control company Orkin has released it annual list that no city wants to be on: locations with the worst bedbug problems....

    Professors claim to have solved bedbug crisis

    Set of chemicals lures them into trap

    In recent years bedbugs have become a scourge of travelers, who have encountered these tiny pests in hotels across the U.S. and brought them home with them.

    Prepare to stop scratching because Simon Fraser University (SFU) biologist Regine Gries says she and her team say they have solved the problem.

    Working with SFU chemist Robert Britton and a team of students, Gries and her husband Gerhard say the have found the solution – a set of chemical attractants, or pheromones, that lure the bedbugs into traps, and keep them there.

    The bedbug trap is expected to be commercially available sometime in 2015.

    Biggest challenge

    "The biggest challenge in dealing with bedbugs is to detect the infestation at an early stage," says Gerhard Gries, who holds an NSERC-Industrial Research Chair in Multimodal Animal Communication Ecology. "This trap will help landlords, tenants, and pest-control professionals determine whether premises have a bedbug problem, so that they can treat it quickly. It will also be useful for monitoring the treatment's effectiveness."

    If it works there should be a huge demand for these bedbug traps. The blood-sucking insects were once thought eradicated from the developed world. In recent years they are back, and not just in low-income housing but also upscale hotels and apartments, and public spaces like stores, movie theaters, libraries and even public transit.

    Germ-carriers

    Just in recent years scientists have changed their somewhat benign view of bedbugs, now viewing them as a public health hazard. They were recently discovered as transmitters of the pathogen that causes Chagas disease, which is prevalent in Central and South America.

    Getting rid of bedbugs in the past has been a complicated and expensive process. Gries hopes her trap changed that.

    As luck would have it Regine Gries is immune to bedbug bites. While others may develop swelling and itching she only experiences a slight rash.

    That allowed her to subject herself to thousands of bedbug bites to feed the large colony needed for the research project. Gerhard, meanwhile, began searching for pheromones that would attract the inspects and ultimately trap them.

    The process took eight years and was filled with starts and stops. At one point the research team developed a pheromone blend that worked perfectly well in lab experiments but got no results when placed in a bedbug-infested apartment.

    That's when Britton entered the picture and was able to fine-tune the structure of the bait so that it was effective at drawing bedbugs in a natural environment.

    Tips

    Until the trap hits the market, travelers have to be on the lookout for these tiny pests. Here are some steps you can take to spot and avoid bedbugs:

    • Check hotel headboards, mattresses and box springs for bedbugs and dark blood spots.
    • Hang all clothing. Leave nothing lying on the bed or furniture.
    • Avoid storing your clothing in the hotel's furniture drawers.
    • Store suitcases on a luggage rack as far from the bed as possible.
    • Vacuum suitcases when returning home, and immediately wash clothing in hot water.
    • Between trips, store luggage in a sealed plastic bag in a garage or basement, away from bedrooms.
    • If you suspect your hotel has bedbugs, ask for a change of rooms.
    In recent years bedbugs have become a scourge of travelers, who have encountered these tiny pests in hotels across the U.S. and brought them home with them...

    PAB Two recalls bed bug heat treatment systems

    The units could pose a fire hazard

    PAB Two of Wheeling, Ill., is recalling about 1,700 bed bug heat treatment systems.

    The flexible, electrical conducting strip at the top of the heating element can break at the corners after multiple setups, posing an electrical fire hazard.

    The company has received 4 reports of the flexible, electrical conducting strip breaking, including 1 report of a fire in a unit and 3 reports of units sparking. No injuries or significant property damage were reported.

    This recall involves the ThermalStrike Expedition bed bug heat treatment system. Consumers place items inside the system to kill bed bugs that may be in the items. The system is made of white, corrugated plastic and has four pieces: a base, a folding four-panel wall, a lid and a temperature sensor. The base and the walls are held together by hook and loop fasteners.

    When assembled, the unit is a box 31 inches long by 18 inches wide by 24 inches tall. The rear of the base has a power cord and the female connector of a power cable attached. The insides of the wall panels have a heating element composed of black heating film connected to a white, flexible electrical conducting strip. The male connector of the power cable is attached to the conducting strip and protrudes from the rear wall panel. The system is energized when the power cables are joined and the power cord is plugged into an electrical outlet.

    The words "ThermalStrike" and "Bed Bug Heat Treatment" are on the front of the unit. ThermalStrike is also printed on the heating element on the interior of the unit.

    The treatment systems, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Bedbug Central, Bedbug Supply, Protect-a-bed, Univar, pest control companies and pest control product distributors nationwide and online at Amazon.com from December 2011, through May 2014, for between $189 and $199.

    Consumers should immediately stop using and unplug the Expedition and register their unit online to receive an ASC Diagnostic Unit free of charge. The diagnostic unit will immediately turn off the system when it detects a break in the conducting strip.

    Consumers may contact PAB Two toll-free at (866) 470-1755 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT Monday through Friday.

    PAB Two of Wheeling, Ill., is recalling about 1,700 bed bug heat treatment systems. The flexible, electrical conducting strip at the top of the heating el...

    Bedbugs headed back to school too

    The pest is expected to show up in dormitories this fall

    Bedbugs were once a common problem in the U.S., but after World War II and a public health campaign that included heavy use of pesticides, the little pests largely disappeared.

    Until recently. Over the last decade the bedbug has made a strong rebound in the U.S., with infestations of urban hotel rooms getting the most publicity. And not just the seedy, rundown establishments. In July a California woman sued the Renaissance Marriott Hotel in Palm Springs, claiming she was bitten by bed bugs more than 400 times while sleeping at the hotel.

    It's not just hotels that are a favorite gathering place for these creatures. Pest control provider Terminix says students returning to college should be aware that bedbugs are infesting dormitories and apartment buildings, anywhere people are living in close quarters.

    'Don't let the bedbugs bite'

    Besides being creepy, bedbugs do, in fact, bite. When they bite, they suck human blood, just as mosquitoes do. They're most active at night and are most likely to feast on any exposed areas of skin while someone is asleep. The face, neck, hands, and arms are favorite areas for bedbug bites.

    The bite doesn't hurt but can cause itching. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bedbugs are not known to spread disease or present a public health hazard. Still, if you can keep bedbugs out of your living space it's probably highly desirable to do so.

    How do you know you have bedbugs? You aren't likely to see them during the day but you may find evidence. There may be brown spots on bedding, tiny blood smears on sheets and – in the case of heavy infestations – a strong, musty odor.

    Despite popular belief, Terminix says bedbugs aren't a sign of unsanitary conditions. Instead, they tend to be attracted to places where there are a lot of people who come and go. Dorm rooms and hotels fall into that category. So do libraries.

    High-traffic areas

    Dorms are vulnerable because a lot of people are in transit over the summer months. They are often used to house students or others who are visiting the campus for a week or two at a time. You may be returning to your same dorm room after the summer break but many others will likely have stayed there over the summer.

    Once bedbugs find a spot they like they tend to spread out. They can spread from one room to the next by crawling through wall cracks and under baseboards. This means your neighbor's infestation could end up being your infestation.

    "Bedbugs continue to have a significant presence across the country, particularly on college campuses, and pose concern for public health," said Stan Cope, PhD and entomologist with Terminix. "Bedbug infestations can cause emotional stress and irritability, which is the last thing students need to deal with on top of their heavy workloads. If you think you have an issue with bedbugs, you should immediately have the facility manager or resident assistant contact a professional to treat your living space."

    What to do

    To make your room less inviting to bedbugs, Terminix suggests using zippered encasements on bed mattresses and box springs, since bedbugs particularly like to set up shop in bedding. Keep your clothes off the floor since bedbugs are more likely to climb on things at ground level.

    Everyone wants to save money but you might be advised to take a pass on the used mattress and box springs advertised on craigslist. You never know what extras you might be getting with it. That actually goes for all sorts of used items. Be careful about bringing used books, backpacks, bedding and clothing into your apartment or dorm.

    The best course of action is to avoid bedbugs in the first place. Once you have them, they are notoriously difficult to get rid of.

    Bedbugs were once a common problem in the U.S., but after World War II and a public health campaign that included heavy use of pesticides, the problem of t...

    Bed bug remedies don't meet the test, feds charge

    FTC: BEST Yet! line of cedar-based products can't support its claims

    The marketers of unproven cedar oil-based remedies for bed bugs and head lice have agreed to soft-pedal their claims.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged that Chemical Free Solutions, LLC, had made unsupported and over-hyped claims for its BEST Yet! line of cedar-oil-based liquid products that it said would treat and prevent bed bug and head lice infestations.

    According to the FTC, the defendants falsely claimed that their natural, BEST Yet! bed bug and head lice products were invented for the U.S. Army, that their bed bug product was acknowledged by the USDA as the No. 1 choice of bio-based pesticides, and that the Environmental Protection Agency had warned consumers to avoid chemical solutions for treating bed bug infestations.

    Under the agreed-upon settlement orders, the defendants are prohibited from claiming that their BEST Yet! products by themselves can stop or prevent a bed bug infestation, or are more effective at doing so than other products, unless they have competent and scientific evidence to make the claims. 

    The defendants also are barred from claiming that their products can effectively treat head lice infestations unless those claims are non-misleading and they obtain FDA approval prior to making those claims. 

    The defendants are further prohibited from misrepresenting the results of scientific tests or studies, and from claiming that a product or service they sell is endorsed by a government agency or by any other third-party entity when it is not.

    The orders impose a $4.6 million judgment against company owner Dave Glassel who is facing bankruptcy, and a $185,206 judgment against Chemical Free Solutions, LLC, which will be suspended due to the company’s inability to pay.  

    Consumers concerned about bed bugs also should see the FTC publication,  “Battling Bed Bugs,” which urges caution about advertisements that offer quick solutions, and provides other related advice to consumers.

    Two marketers of unproven cedar oil-based remedies for bed bugs and head lice have agreed to soft-pedal their claims.The Federal Trade Commission ch...

    Feds Squish Bed Bug Claims

    Companies failed to back up claims they could prevent and eliminate infestations

    The Federal Trade Commission has filed deceptive advertising charges against two  marketers of remedies for bed bug infestations, charging that the companies allegedly failed to back up overhyped claims that they could prevent and eliminate infestations using natural ingredients, such as cinnamon and cedar oil.  One marketer also allegedly made misleading claims that its products were effective against head lice.

    In one of the two cases, RMB Group, LLC and its principals have agreed to settle the charges  relating to their “Rest Easy” bed bug products.  In the case against Cedarcide Industries, Inc. and others, challenging their marketing of “Best Yet!” bed bug and head lice treatments, the defendants have not settled, and the FTC is beginning litigation against them.

    Bed bugs have been a growing public health pest in recent years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Consumers plagued with bed bugs experience considerable stress, discomfort, and expense in attempting to rid themselves of these pests, and many are unaware of the complex measures needed to prevent and control them, according to the EPA. 

    Consumers concerned about bed bugs also should see the FTC publication,   “Good Night, Sleep Tight, and Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite . . . Your Wallet,” which urges caution about advertisements that offer quick solutions, and provides advice to consumers for treating bed bug infestations.

    Head lice

    Also, as children head back to school this fall, the FTC urges parents to carefully research products that claim to treat head lice infestations.    

    In both cases, the FTC charged the marketing companies – as well as the individuals behind them – with deceptive advertising for claiming that their products can  stop and prevent bed bug infestations.  The Cedarcide defendants also are charged with making deceptive claims that their product can stop and prevent head lice infestations, and that the federal government endorses and is affiliated with their product.

    The Cedarcide Industries, Inc. defendants market BEST Yet!, a line of cedar-oil-based liquid products they claim will treat and prevent bed bug and head lice infestations.  The defendants sell the product to consumers nationwide.  They also sell it to hotels and other commercial establishments for treating bed bugs, and to school districts for treating head lice. 

    Consumers can buy the product online, by phone, at the Cedarcide website, and at Amazon.com.  The cost of the products ranges from $29.95 for the quart-sized spray bottle to $3,394.95 for a hotel-motel bed bug eradication kit.

    Unsupported claims

    One radio advertisement for the product stated:

    “In light of the recent bed bug media frenzy that has all of us nervous, you need to know that bed bug prevention and eradication relief are available.  So let’s not all freak out.  All you need is Best Yet from CedarCide.com. . . .  Best Yet was developed at the request of the USDA for our military, as a solution for killing sand fleas. But guess what, it’s equally deadly to bed bugs, larvae and eggs.”

    The FTC complaint charges that the Cedarcide defendants make:

    • unsupported claims that Best Yet!is effective at stopping and preventing bed bug infestations and that it is more effective than synthetic pesticides at doing so;
    • false claims that scientific studies prove Best Yet!is effective at stopping and preventing bed bug infestations, and that it is more effective than synthetic pesticides at doing so;
    • a false claim that the Environmental Protection Agency has warned consumers to avoid all synthetic pesticides for treating bed bug infestations;
    • unsupported claims that Best Yet!is effective in stopping and preventing head lice infestations, killing head lice eggs, dissolving the glue that binds head lice eggs (known as nits) to hair, and killing head lice and their eggs in a single treatment; and
    • false claims that scientific studies prove Best Yet! is effective in stopping and preventing head lice infestations.
    • false claims that Best Yet!was invented for the U.S. Army at the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that the USDA has acknowledged the product as the number one choice of bio-based pesticides.

     

    The Federal Trade Commission has filed deceptive advertising charges against two  marketers of remedies for bed bug infestations, charging that the co...

    EPA OKs Two New Bed Bug Killers

    New preparations contain oil from the Neem tree

    We hope you're not having bed bug problems but if you are, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued registrations for two new products that contain Neem oil, made from Neem trees found in Southeast Asia and Africa.
     
    The EPA says the preparations are non-toxic and have a long history of safe use in other applications.
     
    The two new products are 
    • TER-TRU1, containing 5.5% Cold Pressed Neem Oil, a ready-to-use formulation for spot treatment by residential and commercial users.
    • TER-CX1, containing 22.0% Cold Pressed Neem Oil, is a concentrate formulation for commercial use in the treatment of whole rooms.
    Cold Pressed Neem Oil has a non-toxic mode of action, is naturally occurring in the environment, and has a long history of safe use for other applications.
     
    Cold Pressed Neem Oil is pressed directly from seeds of the Neem tree, a tropical evergreen tree found in Southeast Asia and Africa. The oil contains various compounds that have insecticidal and medicinal properties. It is also used in making products including shampoos, toothpaste, soaps, and cosmetics.
     
    Based on the data submitted to the EPA, these new products meet the required standards for safety and effectiveness. Performance trials conducted at the approved label rates show both products control bed bug adults, nymphs, and eggs.
     
    One of the EPA’s goals is to actively work with industry and researchers to identify new compounds (or new uses of existing compounds) to control bed bugs, and help pest management professionals and the public obtain the latest information and tools for effective bed bug control.  EPA said it expedited the processing of this registration to meet public health pest needs.
     
    These two products have been added to the EPA’s Bed Bug Product Search Tool, an online resource for searching EPA-registered bed bug products. Along with the EPA’s Bed Bug Information Clearinghouse, the online resources aim to provide information useful in the prevention and control of bed bug infestations.
     
    To access the database of EPA-registered Bed Bug products, visit: http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/bedbug/
     
    We hope you're not having bed bug problems but if you are, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued registrations for two new products that contain N...

    Bugs Without Borders: Bed Bugs Spreading Out, Digging In

    The little pests travel undetected and become very attached to their new homes

    What pest is popping up just about everywhere these days? Presidential candidates, you say? Perhaps, but we were actually thinking of bed bugs. A new survey finds that the pesky devils are steadily taking over new territory.

    The study, conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, surveyed U.S. pest management professionals and found that 99 percent of respondents encountered bed bug infestations in the past year. More than eight of out ten said  that bed bug infestations are increasing across the country.

    This represents a sharp increase in prevalence as only 11 percent of respondents reported receiving bed bug calls more than 10 years ago.

    One of the most significant findings is that bed bug encounters have become much more common in public places than the previous year, in some instances increasing by 10, 20 or nearly 30 percent.

    “The increase in bed bug encounters is likely due to a combination of factors, but one thing is clear — this pest shows no signs of retreating,” noted Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA. “Of most concern are the places where pest professionals are encountering bed bugs, such as schools, hospitals, and hotels/motels.”

    Public vigilance is vital to controlling the spread, she said.

    “Increased public awareness, education and vigilance are key in detecting and preventing bed bug infestations as these pests tend to travel undetected from place to place, breed quickly and remain one of the most challenging to treat,” added Henriksen.

    Highlights

    Here are several key highlights from the 2011 Bugs Without Borders Survey:
     
    1. Nearly all professional pest management companies have received bed bug calls in the past year, as the insect spreads to nearly every corner of the country.

    2. While nine out of ten respondents have treated bed bugs in apartments, condominiums and single-family homes in 2011 and 2010, in the past year reports of bed bug encounters have become more common in many other places. College dorms, hotels, nursing homes, office buildings, schools and daycare centers, hospitals, public transportation and movie theaters have all seen inicreased infestations.

    3. Bed bugs continue to be the most difficult pest to treat, according to 73 percent of survey respondents. By comparison, 17 percent pointed to ants, nine percent said cockroaches and one percent said termites were the most difficult pests to control.   

    4. Six out of 10 respondents consider bed bug infestations a year-round phenomenon, while approximately 25 percent say that summer is the time of year when they receive more bed bug calls. 

    5. Visual inspection remains the most common method pest professionals use to determine if a bed bug infestation exists. However, the use of canines has grown from 16 percent to 43 percent in the past year. 

    6. Despite the many warnings that bed bugs are not a DIY pest, 25 percent of customers attempt to treat bed bug infestations by themselves before calling a professional. This number has decreased from the 38 percent who elected to treat bed bugs by themselves in 2010. 

    Bed bugs are the size and color of a flat apple seed, like to travel and will hide in suitcases, boxes and shoes to be near a food supply (humans). In addition to the mattress and headboard, bed bugs can be found behind baseboards, electrical switch plates, picture frames, wallpaper, upholstery and in furniture crevices. 

    More information can be found at AllThingsBedBugs.org.

    What pest is popping up just about everywhere these days? Presidential candidates, you say? Perhaps, but we were actually thinking of bed bugs. A new surve...

    Bed Bug Suit Creeps Toward Trial

    Motion for class certification suggests a settlement is not imminent

    A bed bug class action marches on in Des Moines, Iowa, with residents of two apartment complexes for the elderly and disabled alleging in court papers that the buildings’ management ignored the problem until confronted with litigation.

    The plaintiffs are asking that the suit, originally filed in March, be certified as a class action so that it can inch closer to trial. The implications for the plaintiffs are real, with many seeking refunds of rental payments and compensation for property lost to the infestation.

    Elsie Mason Manor and Ligutti Towers, the buildings at issue, are home to many residents on fixed and limited incomes, who don’t have the necessary means to fully address the problem themselves. As a result, those residents are essentially at the mercy of the buildings’ managers.

    Variety of hardships

    In addition to the often-crippling financial burden -- victims of bed bug infestations often have to throw out all their furniture and sometimes their clothes as well -- the incident has caused residents physical and emotional hardship.

    The complaint says that at least 250 tenants have experienced substandard and unconscionable living conditions as a result of the epidemic.

    “Everybody sleeps on the floor,” Robert Hobbs, a resident of Elsie Mason, told The Des Moines Register. “You have to.”

    Management targeted

    Despite its pious-sounding name, American Baptist Homes of the Midwest -- which manages the two buildings -- is depicted as downright Scrooge-esque in the complaint. The company allegedly dismissed reports of bed bugs at first, and then blamed the problem on residents’ hygiene, a belief that is unfounded and scientifically inaccurate. (As bed bug expert Harold Harlan explained to MSNBC, “the cleanest living area can have a very large infestation, and improving sanitation alone will not eliminate an established bed bug population.”)

    After the suit was filed, things seemed to be looking up for the plaintiffs. American Baptist CEO Dave Zwickey declared that his was “a faith-based, values-driven organization” that would mount “a real-time response to the problem.”

    But the spirit of cooperation has apparently broken down somewhat, with Zwickey telling the Register that he thinks at least some of the plaintiffs’ claims “are both inaccurate and exaggerated.” Zwickey stressed, however, that after the complaint was filed, his company made use of “thermal radiation,” a process that involves heating apartments to 140 degrees for six to eight hours. American Baptist has also sent bedbug-sniffing dogs into the apartments on several occasions. Zwickey says the treatments have helped, leading to “a much different situation than we had last March.”

    “Necessary to take this next step”

    Meanwhile, plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Lipman is turning his attention toward pushing the case through the courts. “Although we never foreclosed the possibility of settlement, we now find it necessary to take this next step,” he told the Register.

    The plaintiffs want the entire building fumigated as soon as possible -- since bed bugs can easily migrate from one apartment to the next -- and ask that potential residents be informed of the problem ahead of time.

    The case highlights the fact that bed bugs aren’t going away any time soon -- and that homeowners should take action to prevent an infestation in the first place.

    Consumers should steer clear of second-hand furniture or close whenever possible, as bed bugs can hop a ride on those items while remaining out of sight.

    Those who live in high-density areas, especially New York City and the surrounding areas, should also consider investing in a bed bug-proof mattress cover.

    Bed Bug Suit Creeps Toward TrialMotion for class certification suggests settlement not imminent...

    Iowa Residents File Bed Bug Class Action

    Plight of Des Moines plaintiffs familiar to many


    Don't let the bed bugs bite isn't just a nursery rhyme anymore. Bed bugs -- a persistent scourge until their near-eradication in the 1940s -- are back and biting in apartments, hotels, even hospitals.

    The insects have reached near-epidemic proportions in the past decade, although experts are unsure as to why. A few factors are commonly cited as key to their resurgence: a built-up resistance to insecticides, more frequent long-distance travel (meaning that vacationers bring the bugs with them from across the globe), and ignorance of the bugs' existence from a generation that thought they had been wiped out ages ago.

    The pests are relatively difficult to kill, and many homeowners and landlords -- unsure what is causing the mysterious itchy scabs popping up on their skin -- fail to take the steps necessary to de-infest their buildings.

    A group of Iowans has decided to take action. Residents of two Des Moines apartment complexes have filed a class action lawsuit, alleging that their buildings are infested with bed bugs and that the management has failed to properly address the problem.

    The buildings, Ligutti Tower and Elsie Mason Manor, are within a block of each other, and both house a considerable number of elderly and disabled residents with limited means to address the problem themselves.

    The suit says that over 250 residents have suffered unconscionable and substandard living conditions as a result of the infestation, and that American Baptist Homes of the Midwest, which manages the two complexes, has been less than responsive. The company was initially skeptical of bed bug complaints and blamed the problems on residents' hygiene, according to the complaint.

    The action, brought under Iowa's new consumer protection law, demands $7.4 million in damages and seeks to have the building fumigated immediately. The plaintiffs also want American Baptist Homes to warn prospective residents about the problem before renting out any apartments.

    American Baptist Homes is apparently trying to atone for its errors. Dave Zwickey, the company's president and CEO, visited Elsie Mason Manor and Ligutti Tower last week after learning of the suit, and promised that management would be more proactive in addressing the problem.

    Zwickey, who said that his was a faith-based, values-driven organization, promised that American Baptist Homes would mount a real-time response to the problem, and we're going to come up with something that has a high range of success. The company was considering, among other things, using propane heaters to raise interior temperatures to nearly 150 degrees, a method that effectively kills bed bugs and their eggs.

    Preventing bed bug infestation

    Besides filing a lawsuit, what can consumers to do prevent a bed bug infestation -- or deal with one that's well underway?

    As with most things, it's easier to prevent bed bugs from nestling into your mattress than it is to drive them out after the fact. Bed bugs can be picked up in seemingly innocuous places -- public laundromats, changing room tables, even subway seats. And that new-looking mattress lying at the curb is there for a reason; steer clear of any furniture left on the street, especially if it looks too nice to be thrown away. Bed bugs nest in clothing as well, so always think twice before buying second-hand clothing or luggage.

    Bed bugs are present almost everywhere, but consumers in high-infestation areas -- such as New York City -- need to be especially aware of the problem. Those consumers would do well to invest in a bed bug cover for their mattress. Several companies now produce a protective microfiber lining that zips around your mattress and protects it from bed bug infestation. Additionally, if your bed has already been attacked, the cover suffocates and eventually kills any bed bugs living inside.

    It's also important to learn from the all-too-common mistakes of bed bug victims past. Don't empty out a room for several days in the hopes that the bugs will disappear. This method is actually counterproductive, as it causes the bugs to spread to other areas of the building in order to find food. Similarly, do-it-yourself insect sprays and bombs may kill a few bugs in close proximity but do little to address the problem long-term.

    As for the Iowa plaintiffs, their pest problem apparently extends beyond bed bugs: the lawsuit is being brought on behalf of all tenants of Elsie Mason Manor and Ligutti Tower who were subject to infestation of bed bugs, cockroaches or rodents from 2007 until the present.

    The suit also names the buildings' owner, First Baptist Housing Foundation, as a defendant.



    Iowa Residents File Bed Bug Class Action...