Bedbug Invasion Is Turning Into Big Business - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Bedbug Invasion Is Turning Into Big Business

MSNBC.COM - Bedbugs mean big money — whether you're a victim or an exterminator. The result: an exploding bedbug business that is not likely to die down anytime soon.

Why? Bedbugs are expert hitchhikers, catching rides inside purses, shoes, luggage, clothes and shopping bags, and they can secretly set up camp in new locations, going for up to a year without feeding. They're showing up in college dorms, nursing homes, day care centers, libraries, funeral homes and even movie theaters.

And they are tough to get rid of.

"We are on the threshold of a bedbug pandemic, not just in the United States, but around the world," said Missy Henriksen, spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association, an industry trade group. "They can go into clean and dirty properties alike. They are equal opportunity pests."

That's good if you're an exterminator or make stuff that kills bedbugs. Revenues from bedbug extermination hit $258 million last year, up from $98 million 2006, according to the trade group, which represents 7,000 pest control companies. Industry officials expect 2010 revenues to be even bigger.

"It is absolutely out of control right now," says Andy Carace, owner of Pest End Exterminators, based in Derry, N.H. So far this year, the 28-employee company has had 800 bedbug jobs. Five years ago, it had 50 cases.

"Bedbugs have been identified as the single most difficult pest to treat in our industry," Henriksen says.

Extermination is a tough job. Pesticides such as DDT once nearly wiped out the bedbug problem 50 years ago, but there is no one single effective way to tackle them today. One method used successfully in Ohio, for instance, might not work on a different bedbug strain in New York, says Henriksen.

Bedbug victims may have to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for extermination, since most cases require repeated treatments.

To meet demand, Pest End created a new bedbug division, hired three new employees and spent $15,000 to buy and train a 2-year-old beagle named Rascal who can sniff out bedbugs and their eggs. Carace says a trained dog can find bugs faster and with better accuracy than a technician can.

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