Bed Bug Biology and Control Issues

Biology and control issues

Bed bug control issues

Bed bugs are remarkably resistant in almost every sense of the word, and are comfortable within all but the extremes of Michigan’s climate. They can survive freezing temperatures (32° F) for days and tolerate much lower temperatures (5° F) for short periods. Their upper lethal temperature is 120° F causing death within minutes, but longer exposures to temperatures above 113° F are also lethal. They have a wide humidity tolerance range but tolerate dry climates better than humid, and have been known to survive without blood meals for up to a year. They spend most of their time hiding in small inconspicuous crevices that are difficult to reach with normal vacuum cleaning and “bug bomb” applications. By hiding in clothing, luggage, bedding, and mattresses, bed bugs may be accidentally  transported to new locations. Bed bugs often choose to hide in box springs because they are undisturbed and offer many 

crevices and close proximity to hosts. Although they are slow moving and prefer to stay where people sleep, they will eventually move if their host leaves, or if their resting place becomes too crowded with other bed bugs. If humans are difficult to find, they will seek blood from other warm blooded animals in the vicinity (eg. dogs, rodents, chickens, etc.).

At present, because of the stealthy habits of the bugs and their remarkable abilities to tolerate environmental fluctuations and host availability, it can be difficult to eradicate them once established. Many populations of bed bugs have also been found to be extremely difficult to kill with certain pesticides (this is referred to as “pesticide resistance”). Pyrethroid pesticides are the most common class of pesticides on the market today for both professional and consumer products. Bed bugs collected from homes and apartments across the nation were studied for the degree of resistance or susceptibility to pyrethroid pesticides. The study showed 80% of the populations to be resistant in some degree to pyrethroids and only 20% of the populations to be susceptible. Some populations were extremely resistant to the point that they would not die unless pesticide was applied directly to their bodies. Several samples from Michigan bedbug populations were found to be highly resistant, but this does not mean that all bed bugs found in Michigan are resistant. Non-chemical means (e.g., steaming, vacuuming, freezing) can be effective under certain conditions, but the variety of hiding places in most dwellings precludes total control with these methods. Circulating dry (convection) heating is the only non-chemical treatment currently available that is effective against bed bugs in all of their hiding places. See the Treatment section for details about the use of these bed bug control technologies.

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