Bed bugs can hitch rides on secondhand furniture, luggage, backpacks and other personal items to invade homes and attack people. While we rest and sleep on sofas and beds, the insects come out to feed. They want to suck our blood. A new web-based, interactive training course shows how to prevent and detect bed bug infestations.
“The training helps tenants recognize, restrict and report bed bugs and helps landlords comply with California state regulations on bed bugs,” said Andrew Sutherland, University of California Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor for the Bay Area.
Landlords are required by Assembly Bill 551, which became law in 2016, to provide bed bug information to renters in California. Renters and other residents can learn how to spot signs of bed bugs from an online course designed by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources integrated pest management experts, web designers, pest management professionals, housing management professionals and public health officers.
The online bed-bug education is available in full-length and shorter versions in both English and Spanish. The animated, fun and self-paced course is available for free at stopbedbugs.org.
Although bed bugs have never been shown to transmit disease to humans, their bites can cause itchy, red welts on the skin.
People shouldn't be embarrassed about having bed bugs, says Sutherland. Cluttered spaces give bed bugs places to hide and breed, but the tiny insects don't require a dirty environment. Even the nicest hotels sometimes play host to bed bugs.
“This training will help destigmatize having bed bugs and, by emphasizing prompt reporting and cooperation, will help landlords and residents fight bed bugs as a team,” said Heidi Palutke, senior vice president of compliance and education for the California Apartment Association.
The animated narrator, modeled after UCCE staff researcher Casey Hubble, urges renters to alert their property manager promptly if they suspect bed bugs are in their home so pest management professionals can rid the home of the biting insects and prevent them from spreading.
Bed bugs can go without feeding for many days to several months, depending on life stage, temperature and humidity, according to the UC Integrated Pest Management Program. Adult bed bugs may live one year or more and produce as many as four generations.
The bed bug course was produced with funding from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The digital artistry was created by Sergey Litvinenko and his colleagues at Geosphere LLC.
Termites can eat you out of house and home by chewing through wood and weakening the structure. The results of a new termite study led by entomologists at UC Riverside may enable homeowners to rid their homes of termites with a safer, effective pest control approach.
“Combining a volatile essential oil with heat might reduce callbacks for pest management professionals and potentially lead to lower risk of heat damage to things in the homes,” said Dong-Hwan Choe, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside.
The conventional method of exterminating termites requires residents to vacate the house while pest control professionals tent the structure then pump in toxic chemicals to kill the termites. While insecticides are effective at killing termites, urban pest managers are under pressure from regulators and residents to find alternatives that won't harm people, pets or the environment.
To rid structures of termites without using chemicals, pest control professionals heat the air inside structures to lethal temperatures. However, termites can survive in hard-to-heat areas such as in wood positioned against concrete foundation walls. In a recent study, Choe found adding essential oils to heat treatments can kill termites insulated from the heat.
“You need some kind of insecticide to kill the termites in those locations that are hard to heat,” said Daniel Perry, who conducted the study as a UC Riverside graduate student with Choe.
“By using an essential oil, which is toxic to termites, we can kill them without really any risk to humans or other animals that live in the house.”
The western drywood termite, Incisitermes minor (Hagen), is a common structural pest in the United States native to California, from the border with Mexico to Central California and inland to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“We tested several insecticidal essential oils on individual western drywood termites and found that methyl salicylate, or wintergreen oil, killed them the fastest,” said Choe.
Wintergreen oil kills termites, but it doesn't hurt people or their pets. Although pest control professionals commonly use orange oil for localized drywood termite treatments, wintergreen oil has about twice the flash point so it's safer to use with the heat treatment, Perry said.
To test the synergy of the volatile essential oil and heat, the research team placed wood blocks infested with 20 drywood termites each in Villa Termiti, a small wooden structure built for pest management research at the UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station. They applied 160microliters (about 16 drops) of wintergreen oil to some infested wood blocks (the treatment) and no wintergreen oil to other infested blocks (the untreated control), then used propane heaters to heat the house to between 134 degrees and 146 degrees Fahrenheit for 140 minutes. After seven days, they found that 92% to 100% of the drywood termites were dead when treated. In contrast, in blocks without the wintergreen oil, only 36% to 44% of the termites died in the same time period when treated within areas near the concrete foundation wall. Incorporation of the essential oil substantially increased the control efficacy for this area near the foundation, resulting in more than 90% mortality.
Lethal temperatures and essential oils will kill termites at all life stages, but the scientists used immature termites at the pseudergate (worker) stage. The wingless, pale pseudergates do most of the work for the colony, excavating tunnels and chewing up food for the other termites to eat.
“If you can kill all of the pseudergates, then the rest of the colony will likely collapse,” said Perry, who went to work for Procter & Gamble after finishing this project and his master's degree at UC Riverside.
“The most common treatment is fumigation and that requires three or four days during which the structure has to be vacated,” said Perry. "With the heat treatments, all you have to do is heat up the structure until the wood inside gets to the temperature that will kill the termites, hold the lethal temperature for a few hours, and then let the house cool off. You only have to be out of the house for maybe six hours, so it's a lot more convenient.”
Andrew Sutherland, UC Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor for the Bay Area, offers training for pest management professionals. He is encouraged by the results.
Sutherland said, “It means that folks will be able to heat effectively at lower target temperatures and lower durations, so it's less cost for everybody, and probably less time for everybody. It's a way to really synergize the heat treatment and no fumigant gas is released to the atmosphere.”
“Volatile Essential Oils Can Be Used to Improve the Efficacy of Heat Treatments Targeting the Western Drywood Termite: Evidence from Simulated Whole House Heat Treatment Trials” was published in the October 2020 edition of Journal of Economic Entomology.
Pest management professionals can learn about the requirements of California's Healthy Schools Act by taking a free online course provided by the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM), part of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
To minimize children's exposure to pesticides, California requires pest control operators providing services in schools and licensed child care centers to comply with a series of laws called the Healthy Schools Act. The laws promote integrated pest management (IPM) in public K–12 schools and licensed private child care centers.
The free course Providing Integrated Pest Management Services in Schools and Child Care Settings explains what the Healthy Schools Act requires of schools, child care centers and pest control companies when managing pests in these environments.
"Taking the online course makes it easier to understand and comply with the laws," said Andrew Sutherland, UC ANR Cooperative Extension IPM advisor. "Pest management professionals can take the course at their convenience. It tells them everything they need to know about the Healthy Schools Act and IPM in order to do business with a school or child care center."
The course also includes a section on how companies can prosper by incorporating IPM principles and practices into their businesses.
"This is an opportunity for operators to take their businesses to the next level by adopting IPM practices," Sutherland said. "IPM effectively and efficiently manages pests, builds professionalism within providers, and captures value for the customer while minimizing pesticide applications, pesticide exposures and associated negative impacts on children's health, the environment and the larger community."
Licensed pest-management professionals can receive continuing education units by completing the online course: one "Rules and Regulations" and one "IPM" from the Structural Pest Control Board; and one "Laws and Regulations" and one "Other" from the Department of Pesticide Regulation.
UC Berkeley's Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health is developing a database of individuals who complete the course so that schools and child care centers can connect with pest control providers who are familiar with IPM and the Healthy Schools Act.
The training module was developed by Sutherland and collaborators at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, with input from California pest management professionals and child care providers.
To take the free Providing Integrated Pest Management Services in Schools and Child Care Settings course, see the UC IPM website http://ucanr.edu/ipm4schools.
This project was funded by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation Pest Management Alliance Program. For more information about the Healthy Schools Act, visit the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's School IPM web page http://apps.cdpr.ca.gov/schoolipm.
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.