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UC ANR teamed up to investigate effective integrated pest management for bed bugs in low-income, multiple-occupancy housing

The Issue

Bed bugs, their bites, and the associated social stigma continue to plague many Californians and draw widespread attention from the media. Although bed bugs can occur within a wide range of human habitations and income-levels, it’s those who live in low-income, multiple-occupancy housing who appear to suffer the greatest. Integrated Pest Management (IPM), first developed by UC in the 1940s for agriculture, offers a theoretical framework for bed bug management in multiple-occupancy housing

What Has ANR Done?

A collaborative team approach was used that involved scientists from UCR, UCB, UCIPM, and UCCE as well as pest management professionals (PMPs) from three pest control companies. This team represented the continuum from research to educational outreach for which UC is known. An added strength of this team approach was the involvement of PMPs who provided valuable field expertise and candidate field sites to be included in the one-year study. A two-pronged research approach was used, involving assessment of stakeholder needs followed by field demonstrations of IPM programs for bed bugs. First, surveys of PMPs and housing management professionals were conducted statewide to document attitudes, behaviors, and cognition about bed bugs, and to better understand common management strategies and potential IPM approaches. For the field demonstration part of the study, the target settings were three low-income, multiple-occupancy housing complexes. Classic components of IPM (monitoring, a combination of treatment techniques, and resident education programs) were featured and showcased by each participating PMP. Efficacy for each IPM service was measured by UC personnel through pre- and post-demonstration assessments of bed bug incidence using passive (non-attractive) bed bug monitors. ‘Town hall’ meetings and paper surveys were conducted in both English and Spanish to assess residents’ responses to the bed bug IPM program and overall program success. A variety of methods were used to share the progress and results of the demonstrations including multiple publications and 21 oral presentations.

The Payoff

This project improved the knowledge on bed bugs amongst California stakeholders while substantially reducing incidences of bed bug infestations at demonstration sites.

Information gleaned from statewide surveys revealed that complaint-based services, visual searches, and heavy reliance on insecticides were the predominant aspects of management efforts directed at bed bugs. Survey results also revealed some use of canine searches for bed bugs, in-room bed bug monitors, and non-chemical control methods, although these were reported to a much lesser degree. Findings from UC’s efficacy tests showed a substantial reduction in the incidence of bed bug infestations (reductions range 29 - 88%), as compared to levels before the IPM demonstrations. Residents reported overall satisfaction with the IPM programs, with about two-thirds (68%) reporting they were ‘more satisfied’ with bed bug control in their communities than before the one-year demonstrations. A common theme noted throughout the project was the need for proactive monitoring, regular surveillance, and teamwork by the PMPs, managers, and residents for bed bug IPM to be effective. Additional collaborative team projects, research, and a policy process directed at public and low-income housing facilities will be needed to fine-tune bed bug IPM models so that it will be financially sustainable while significantly reducing infestation levels and the amounts of pesticides used. Before wide-scale adoption by the industry, critical evaluations by other PMP companies will also be warranted.


Dong-Hwan Choe, Department of Entomology, UC Riverside, (951) 827-5717, donghwan.choe@ucr.edu
Andrew Sutherland, UCCE Alameda County, & UC Statewide IPM Program, 510-670-5624, amsutherland@ucanr.edu