CHICAGO – You can cook them or freeze them. Poison them, stab them with a screwdriver or smear them on the wall. People have tried all these tactics and more, but bed bugs continue to thrive and spread across the United States, experts say.
An entire industry emerged Tuesday to offer suggestions for controlling the blood-sucking parasites at the first-of-its-kind Bed Bug Summit in Rosemont, Ill.
Almost 400 people attended the sold-out conference, with another 200 turned away. Some were researchers, others from government agencies. They included housing administrators and exterminators alike, all trying to find out how to get rid of the infestation.
In response, 50 or so vendors pitched a variety of ways to do in the tiny mites. Demonstrators sprayed a white cloud of carbon dioxide to freeze them. Entire trucks with propane furnaces were on hand to roast a houseful of furniture up to 180 degrees, more than warm enough to kill the bugs.
Scent-sniffing dogs were a popular option for detecting them.
In darkened conference rooms, entomologists showed off slides of the smashed critters.
The bugs’ bites can cause red welts, but carry no disease. Despite their increase in prevalence, experts say there’s no reason to close facilities to treat them.
Still, a big part of the problem is lack of awareness and property owners’ desire not to let word get out that they have a problem, Virginia Tech associate professor Dini Miller said.
“We are not going to have a chemical savior to this problem,” she said. “We’re all going to look at a long tedious process for keeping bed bugs manageable.”