ARLINGTON, Texas — Members of the pest control community from around the state met in Arlington on Friday to learn about new products and services to keep people’s homes free of bed bugs.

“Basically, bed bugs were eradicated from the United States after World War II due to the wide spread commercial use of DDT. Around the year 2000 is when we started seeing them pop up in the northeast,” said Jeffrey White, research entomologist for Bed Bug Central.

“Bed bugs are a small insect that feeds on blood and only blood. They are typically associated with beds, couches and homes. You can see them with a naked eye, but they are very small,” he said. “ Once you find them or get them they can be very difficult to eliminate. It can be $800 to $1,000 or more to get rid of a problem.”

Pesticides like DDT aren’t an option for exterminators because of their negative effect on the environment. Other products have proven either ineffective or the bed bugs have developed a tolerance to them.

One treatment that’s proven effective – heat – was demonstrated at the convention.

“This heater allows us to work in multiple environments, from someone’s home to an apartment to a hotel.

What it does is it takes advantage of the power that is available in each of those settings to heat a room up and kill bed bugs,” Chromalox representative Larry Byers said.

“We are basically turning the room into a large convection oven. You would position the furniture in the room to allow for circulation of the air. The heater then heats the air in the room and distributes its contents, killing bed bugs in all stages. This takes about a business day to do.”

Bed bugs can become resistant to chemicals, but they’re not resistant to heat, he said, saying treatments cost from $900-$1,800 per application depending on the size of the room and equipment needed.

Other booths at the convention sought to use science as a means of detection for these insects. Katie Johnson is a microbiologist with Research Associates Laboratory in Dallas. Her company uses forensic testing to help homeowners identify if they have a problem in their home. A sample is taken with a sterile swab on the mattress by the homeowner or a pest control professional. The swab is sent to a lab with results within 24 hours at a 99.9 percent accuracy rate. The cost for the service is $50 for a professional and $65 for individuals.

Simpler treatments include getting a bed encasement, which is a cover that fits over the mattress and box springs to keep bugs out and imprison the ones already inside, where they die. Another solution is to use interception devices, which are round trays that go underneath the legs and feet of couches and bed. The trays catch bed bugs with their slippery surface and prevent them from climbing out, causing them to die.

Vacuuming around the home on a regular basis is recommended. Spraying for bed bugs needs to be done by a licensed professional.

“I think that the most important fact is that bed bugs are back and they are here to stay. While in New York we have had wide spread problems for years now. Many locations in Texas are now just starting to experience them, which is only going to continue. There is a fine line to walk between hysteria and knowledge, so you need to educate yourself on what this bug is and how not to bring it into your home,” White said.

“Avoid discarded furniture. If you see something discarded on the side of the street you typically don’t want to bring it into your house. If you are going to buy used furniture make sure and ask the company what they are doing to handle any type of bed bugs that are on the furniture. If you are going be buy new furniture make sure that it is not picked up in a truck that picks up used furniture. What has been found in the past is that these trucks can become infested.”

Bed bugs can be found along the seam of the mattress. Evidence of bed bugs – such as¬ fecal spotting on the box springs and head board – can also be detected without seeing them, White said, who advises people to unpack their belongings outside after traveling and launder the clothes in a hot wash and hot dry cycle. Place the suitcase inside a tightly sealed garbage bag until it has to be used again, he said.

For more information about bed bugs and products for the home, go to www.bedbugcentral.com.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1451.