In a new article, “New mutant bed bugs twice as hard to kill,” the Scotsman.com laments that
Many people cannot identify bed bugs… and often cannot recognize them until it’s too late.
Unfortunately, this claim is made directly under an enormous illustration of a flea!
I’m including a photo below because I am sure that it won’t be long before the Scotsman responds to those of us who wrote in to complain, by replacing this silly illustration.
The Scotsman is not alone in its confusion about what bed bugs look like. See examples of other photo errors in the news media here. I strongly believe that the media plays a role in helping people learn what bed bugs look like, by publishing accurate photos of bed bugs.
Photo error aside, the article focuses on the problem of pesticide resistance. While it is a genuine concern, the article may hit too much of an alarmist note for the general public.
For example, University of Sheffield entomology Professor Michael Siva-Jothy is quoted as saying,
“Bed bugs are becoming resistant to the most commonly used insecticides, called pyrethroids. If you go out to infested houses you will find these bugs are very resistant to standard chemicals.
“What we are seeing here is evolution in action; genetic changes in bed bugs produce resistance to insecticides and in many cases patterns of pesticide use by home owners and pest control companies is making the situation worse.
“There is a big problem with home owners and pest controllers using increasing doses of the same pesticide to kill bed bugs. In the long term this will just make them more resistant. We don’t want to end up with a situation where bed bugs become resistant to all our available treatments.”
That last statement, while true and reasonable, placed in the context of this news story might make readers think,
“Oh no! Mutant bed bugs! Cannot be killed by any available treatments!”
The truth is that bed bugs cannot become resistant to certain types of treatment such as quickly and thoroughly heating the structure or enclosing the bed bugs in a closed space with a toxic gas like Vikane (sulfuryl fluoride). These treatments must be done professionally by experts, of course.
Dry vapor steam, another form of heat treatment, can be applied by experts and consumers alike, and while it’s just a contact killer, it can be a remarkably effective one if used properly and persistently. (See our FAQ about killing bed bugs with steam.)
Pesticide resistance is a very real concern. However, I’ve also noticed that articles like this tend to make people who don’t know a lot about bed bugs panic. Many people misinterpret the information, thinking it suggests pesticides in use right now don’t work at all.
We’ve heard repeatedly from consumers in our forums who have heard of pesticide resistance and think that there’s no point getting bed bug treatment at all since “pesticides don’t work anyway.”
Yes, it’s getting harder to kill bed bugs, but there are tools that work, and people who are experienced with killing them can treat your bed bug problem by using these tools, including a variety of pesticides which still do work.
Since we don’t get to mention it often enough, we’re very grateful for the fine work being done by researchers like Michael Siva-Jothy and Richard Naylor (also of the University of Sheffield), among many others.
As of the wee hours on Monday, 24 hours later, the flea image has been removed from the Scotsman article, but not yet replaced with anything.