Bed bugs have become a huge problem for thousands of homeowners and businesses in Virginia.

Bed bugs are on the rise all over the country and if you think they don’t affect you, experts say chances are you likely know someone who is affected.

Tim McCoy, who runs the Dodson Urban Pest Management Lab at Virginia Tech, tells CBS 6 he considers bed bugs to be an epidemic.

He predicts it will get worse before it gets better.

McCoy’s lab is at the forefront of research on thegenetics of resistance and finding new control methods for bed bugs, like Diatomaceous earth.

That’s a dust that dries out and kills bed bugs.

“We’re able to test products and that you see on the internet and find out if they work and then get that information out to the public,” McCoy said.

When it comes to bed bugs, McCoy believes the biggest myths people have are that they transmit disease and they’re considered a filth pest.

“The myth is that they’re associated with dirty, squalored conditions and that’s not true. bed bugs want to live with people. We are their food source, so it doesn’t matter what economic range you’re in, bed bugs can be a problem,” said McCoy.

He showed us a colony of bed bugs that he collected from a Richmond group home. McCoy pointed out how quickly they reproduce. He’s also amazed by their high level of resistance.

“These are insects we put on a pesticide treated panel, leave them there for two weeks and they’re still alive. That is an unbelievable level of resistance because most insects would be dead in a matter of hours” said McCoy.

He explains that the bed bugs we’re dealing with today have built up super resistance and getting rid of them is tricky. In his opinion it’s too difficult of a job for any homeowner to do alone.

“This is a pest that is growing in prevalence and we don’t have specific chemistries to control them. At this point we are not going to get any new chemicals or pesticides approved. What we’re going to have to rely on is more training and professional pest control operators treating them” McCoy said.

Jim Lincoln, a General Manger for Orkin describes the magnitude of the bed bug problem in our area. “I’ve been with Orkin for 31 and a half years and for the first 25 I only dealt with the bed bug issue one time. Now, it’s an everyday occurrence,” said Lincoln.

“Orkin has released the number of bed bug treatments in the Richmond and Petersburg area and that ranks 14th out of all of the cities in the United States,” he added.

Pest control expert Eddie Connor says his Northern Virginia company, Connor Pest Protection, uses specially trained dogs to fight bed bugs.

“They’re going to tell us where the activity is and where they’re detecting odor, the presence of live bed bugs or the eggs. This actually helps us focus into those areas so we can give more effective treatment,” said Connor.

As we watched their dog Willie demonstrate his uncanny sense of smell, we realize how easy the K9 makes the job for Connor and his crew.

They show us the dog’s abilities by strategically placing bed bugs around the room in hidden areas. It only takes seconds for Willie to give his signature alert signal, so his handler knows he’s on to something.

Eddie tells us K9 pest detection is one of their greatest tools. He also shows us how highly effective heat treatments are.

In the same training facility he cranks up some massive heaters then uses fans to move heat to every crack and crevice of the room. The bug’s tipping point? 122 degrees. On a pillow we measure the temperature at 129 degrees and when the bed bugs hit the surface of it, they die within four seconds.

A typical heat treatment done by Connor’s lasts three to four hours at about 130 degrees. He says in addition to the heat treatment, follow up visits are critical.

Connor also tells about some other items homeowners can get to battle bed bugs. Like mattress encasements that can be used to cover mattresses in the home.

“It takes all the hiding spots away from the mattresses. Basically you encase the mattress. Zip it up tight, it does breathe and it’s water resistant. If any bed bugs are inside they can’t get out. It saves money. It’s early detection because if you find the fecal matter on the mattress encasement or the actual bug it helps you make it more blaring when you change the sheets” explained Connor.

He also shows us a heating chamber that’s portable. Connor says the Pack Tight product has become pretty popular with his clients. That product allows people who are concerned about bringing bed bugs to their home to put clothes, books or other items in the heater to zap any potential bugs.

Connor says in one case they worked on, clients had bed bugs in their home after they checked out some library books and left the books on a night stand in their room.

He explains that the bugs want to be close to their hosts at night, so they can feed, and once they’re done they retreat to nearby areas, including behind headboards, on chairs, even cracks in the wall.

Experts say while they’re a pesky problem to have, bed bugs are no cause for panic. They’re highly treatable with the right people, and the right noses on the job.

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