Bed bugs were once a common public health pest worldwide, which declined in incidence through the mid 20th century. Recently, however, bed bugs have undergone a dramatic regurgence and worldwide there are reports of increasing numbers of infestations. Australia has also been included in this trend and the Department of Medical Entomology (ICPMR) has been at the forefront of documenting this phenomena and providing information on the ecology and control of this important public health pest.
Treatment and Control
If bed bugs are suspected then a licensed pest controller should be consulted. A careful inspection must be undertaken and all possible hiding places within infested and adjoining rooms examined. Once all likely sources have been identified, then an approved insecticide, which has some residual activity, should be applied to all harbourages. The synthetic pyrethroids are often the main chemicals used for control in Australia, however these are not very effective and can even repel the bugs. The carbamates and the organophosphates are far more effective for control, but may not be recommended for use on mattresses (check with a licensed pest controller). Non-chemical approaches to control include the use of vacuuming and steam. Infested clothing can be washed in hot water and dried on the hot cycle of the clothes drier. Delicate materials can be placed into the freezer. Pesticides will need to be applied in conjunction with any non-chemical means of control. Good housekeeping practices and a reduction in possible harbourages such as cracks and crevices will discourage repeat infestations. As bed bugs are cryptic in their habits, complete control is often difficult to achieve with the first treatment. This is especially so with heavy infestations and thus a post pest control treatment evaluation is always advisable.