Many chemical pesticides have grown ineffective against bed bugs, a phenomenon that is commonly referred to as pesticide resistance. Researchers have found that bed bugs are developing an immunity to these chemicals over time, in many cases making non-chemical methods the best route to gaining effective control over the pests.
Bed Bug Immunity
In the last few years, the bed bug population has risen substantially worldwide. For over 50 years, there were no bed bugs in the United States thanks to DDT and other powerful but toxic insecticides. However, with these harmful chemicals being banned and an increase in air travel, bed bugs are on the rise once again. And unlike previous generations of bed bugs, the modern bug has outstanding immunity.
The Spread of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs have spread rapidly across the US, particularly in major metropolitan cities. Exterminators in these areas have report receiving as many as 40 calls per day from people seeking help with bed bugs.
Bed Bugs Are Survivors
Without a doubt, bed bugs are survivors. Once they take hold of a space, they can become nearly impossible to eradicate. For one, the bugs can survive up to a year without feeding. Also, their ability to procreate is impressive. Female bed bugs are capable of laying 500 eggs in their short lifetime.
Pesticides to Kill Bed Bugs
Scientists and Entomologists have been working to bolster the impact of systemic poison insecticides such as pyrethroids by mixing them with neonicotinoids which are facing heat due to their detrimental impact on pollinators like bees.
Recently, a study was conducted where three groups of bed bugs were exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides. The first was a typical group of bed bugs collected from Cincinnati and Michigan, the second group was collected in 2008 before the introduction of neonicotinoids, and the third had been kept for 30 years without any exposure to insecticides.
The researchers exposed the 30-year colony to 0.3 nanograms of neonicotinoids and over half the colony quickly died off. However, it took over 10,000 nanograms to kill as many bed bugs in either of the other two groups.
The researchers found that the two groups of bed bugs that had been exposed to either pyrethroids or neonicotinoids previously were able to produce detoxifying enzymes that they appeared to use to detoxify, a new interesting form of resistance.
Although impressive resistance like this has been found in bed bug colonies throughout America, it doesn't mean that all bed bug colonies across the world have developed the same resistance yet. However, it does show that the bugs can and do genetically evolve quickly to become resistant to frequently used chemicals.
New Tools to Fight Bed Bugs
Pesticide resistance remains a very real problem that is growing globally. However, scientists and researchers are working hard to overcome it. New tools are emerging to fight bed bugs that don't involve harsh chemicals. Many natural sprays are available that have proven successful along with heat, steam, and even freezing as effective methods for combating these persistent pests.
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