A new article picked up by the Associated Press offers more information on the chicken industry-bed bug connection being researched by scientists at the University of Arkansas–Fayetteville and Texas A&M University.
Arkansas entomology professor C. Dayton Steelman, who collects laboratory samples, says bed bugs hide during the day but come out at night to feast in breeder houses where hens lay eggs for hatcheries.
“They’re usually in there by the thousands, maybe even millions, before they’re detected,” he says.
The scientists believe the breeder houses are “geographic epicenters” from which the bugs migrant to other parts of the country by traveling poultry workers and by other birds, such as swallows that nest in the houses.
The problem of detection makes sense. It’s hard for us to see bed bugs, so why not the people who take care of breeding chickens? And, of course, there’s no pushy chicken calling up the landlord saying, “I am being bitten by something! You must fix this!”
We started hearing about this research a few months ago, and it is very exciting. I’m still wondering if there’s a connection between live poultry houses in NYC as a contributing factor in the resurgence of bed bugs here (which hopelessnomo draws our attention to in the comments thread I just linked to).
The good news is there are implications about how to stem this problem:
The bugs aren’t as plentiful in houses that produce eggs sold in grocery stores because the chickens in those houses are kept in cages suspended over the floor and the bugs can’t jump that high.
Standard chicken houses with birds bound for processing plants also aren’t easy marks for bedbugs because the chickens cycle through quickly, and the houses are cleaned after each cycle.
Inaccessibility (“isolating the bed”) and cleaning, two methods humans use too.