Bed bugs on the increase in Illinois but lack of DDT makes it hard to control

Bed bugs are an increasing problem in Illinois, say exterminators. Lack of chemicals to battle back against the bed bugs are the issue, exterminators say.

By , AP

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    A collection of bed bugs which are used for training purposes are displayed.
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"Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" has taken on a whole new meaning in Illinois recently, and local pest control professionals have noticed an uptick in business related to the bugs.

"I've been doing pest control now for just under 28 years, and until about the last four or five I'd never seen a live bedbug at an account," EnviroTech's Harry Melvin said. "A year ago we might have had one call a month. Now it's gone to five or six a week."

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the little buggers' numbers are rising after declining rapidly in the 1940s and 1950s. Melvin said part of the reason for the increased number of infestations is the use of less powerful chemicals than in the past.

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Andy Murrow, a nine-year technician who works at Egyptian Exterminating Co. in Marion, agreed.

"Years ago we had strong chemicals, stuff like DDT, which pretty much wiped them off the map," Murrow said. "It's probably for the best, not having that stuff around, but the environmentally friendly chemicals allow pests to come back."

While infestations usually bring to mind thoughts of squalor, Melvin said anybody can come up with bedbugs.

"We find them in homes, dorm rooms, apartments, trailers, anywhere," he said. "Clean or dirty, it doesn't matter."

Bedbugs are sneaky. Travelers from places where the bugs are common usually carry them.

Bedbugs hitchhike into homes and hotels on luggage, backpacks, clothing, beds and furniture. If they get into an apartment complex, bedbugs can quickly infest several units. They breed and mature quickly. Females lay about 12 eggs, which reach adulthood in about a month.

Bedbugs are small, flat insects, usually reddish-brown and up to 1/4-inch long. They do not fly or hop, and they drink the blood of pets and people, usually in 3 to 5 minutes after latching on to their victims.

Bedbugs probably do not spread disease, but their bites itch and can get infected if scratched.

Do-it-yourself chemicals probably will not work against bedbugs. The best way to deal with the bugs, as with most things, is prevention.

The Illinois Department of Public Health offered suggestions such as moving beds away from walls, cleaning under beds, using light-colored sheets and inspecting secondhand furniture.

Because they are such good travelers, Murrow recommended being on the lookout when sleeping at motels.

"When you get to hotel room, check the bed, lift the pillow and mattress," Murrow said. "Check around the sheets; look for drops of blood; check around the headboard."

If there is an infestation, Melvin said clean-up costs varied and depended on the size of the room and the time it took to complete the job.

"It could be from $200 up to $2,000." Melvin said.

Try to "sleep tight" thinking about that.

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