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Gail Banzet - Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are invading the country…the little brown bugs have been around a long time, but in recent months, they've been on attack!
Gail Banzet - Bed Bugs

Bed bugs

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Oklahoma State University Entomology Lab

Show Dates

Show 1050: Interview with Gail Banzet - Bed Bugs

Air date: December 12, 2010



Rob McClendon:  Well if you haven’t already heard, bed bugs are invading the country or at least our country’s bed sheets.  Joining me now is KOSU’s Gail Banzet.

Gail Banzet:  That’s right Rob.  The little brown bugs have been around for a long time; but, in recent months they’ve been on attack showing up in hotel rooms, college dorms, and even high-end department stores.  Now entomologists say they pose no health threat, but they can cost you a lot of money; and, maybe a little sanity as I discovered while working on this story.

Gina Peek:  Okay, so the bed bugs want to be near you, but they want to hide, that’s their whole, sort of, modus operandis.

Gail:  From her office on the campus of Oklahoma State University, Housing and Consumer Specialist Gina Peek shows me how to inspect a mattress for bed bugs.  No, I haven’t found any in my home or office, but just the thought of them makes me nervous.

Gina:  Okay, so like I was saying, if you go to bed, you wake up in the morning and you’re feeling itchy, you might have reason to believe that, you know, you might have a bed bug problem.  They want to be in a small, tight place.

Gail:  Bed bugs can hide anywhere, in the crevices and corners of your mattress or couch, and even in the plastic covers of electrical outlets.

Gina:  They really don’t care how much money is in your wallet, or what you look like, or anything like that.  What they care about is your blood, and so anyone, at any time, can have a bed bug infestation.

Gail:  Here at the Oklahoma State University entomology lab, scientists actually have a colony of bed bugs, but luckily, they’re contained.

Deborah Jaworski:  This happens to be a colony that’s never been under any kind of pesticide pressure.  Let’s see how this looks, cause I’m not sure how many’s left in here.

Gail:  OSU’s Dr. Deb Jaworski holds a glass jar of little brown bugs hiding inside what looks like a folded up coffee filter.  She tells me the bed bugs can’t escape and don’t jump like fleas, but i still feel itchy.  They look harmless, and really they are, but OSU Entomologist Tom Royer explains why they’re so creepy.

Tom Royer:  They can find plenty of places to hide, and what they need to be is in close proximity to their food source.

Gail:  I’m grossed out to tell you that we are in fact, their food source; and, when a bed bug bites it affects everyone differently.  Some may not be bothered while others could begin to itch, but when the lights go out and you’re sound asleep, they venture out to find you for a meal.  If bed bugs are discovered, Royer says this is where it can get expensive.

Royer:  It is gonna take a really good plan and using every technique available to be able to control them effectively once they establish in a, in a house or in a hotel room or anywhere.

Gail:  Royer says most colonies of bed bugs have grown resistant to commonly used insecticides due to long-term exposure, and chemicals such as DDT that are still effective, are banned from use.  So now it takes a combination of certain spray applications and heat to kill them off.  Glen Redding with the Stillwater Housing Authority says his team uses big heaters.  Luckily, only one case has been reported in the Authority’s 135 units.

Glen Redding:  You try to heat up the house from, anywhere from 120 to 135 degrees so that every corner of the house has that heat penetration in it.

Gail:  Redding says using outside heaters to treat a residence can cost up to $2,500; and just to be on the safe side, there’s the expense of throwing out infested couches, mattresses, and other furniture.  Getting rid of the annoying bugs can be quite an ordeal; so if you’re worried, there are several ways to prevent them from hitchhiking home with you.  First of all, if you’re staying at a hotel, don’t sit suitcases on the floor or bed, keep them elevated on a hard surface.  OSU’s Gina Peek says bed bugs seem to prefer wood and fabric over plastic and metal.

Gina:  Another good thing you can do when you come home from a trip, take your, your suitcase straight to the washer and put everything from your suitcase into the washer and start that, that process if you have any sort of concerns.

Gail:  Throwing your clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes will also kill off any bed bugs.  And although they don’t live on filth, avoiding clutter in your home helps too.  If you live in a multi-family housing unit such as a dorm or apartment building, it’s your responsibility to report bed bugs.  Then the landlord is supposed to help with treatment, but Peek says hopefully the “freak factor” of it all will keep tenants pro-active with prevention.

Deborah:  This one is trying to get away.

Gail:  Back at the OSU entomology lab, Dr. Jaworski reassures me a second time that, the bed bugs she holds in the glass jar won’t jump out and get me; but, I’m still not convinced, and then she tells me this.

Deborah:  One thing about bed bugs that I think most people don’t realize is probably in their past somewhere they’ve had exposure.

Gail:  Certainly not comforting to know but I guess if we fought off bed bugs once before, we can do it again.

Rob:  Now these little things can really do a number on you; I know when you came back from the shoot you were just a little bit creeped out.

Gail:  Rob, just thinking about it makes me itch; but the bottom line that we all need to remember, is that they’re a harmless nuisance that will only tax your wallet and your sanity, not your health.

Rob:  Alright; thanks so much Gail.

Gail:  Thanks Rob.