Houston Chronicle update on the U of Arkansas / Texas A&M research on bed bugs in chicken breeding facilities

by nobugsonme on December 8, 2007 · 8 comments

in bed bugs, entomologists

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.

Scientists say bedbugs bed down in chicken breeder houses | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

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.

1 James Buggles December 9, 2007 at 3:11 pm

It’s ironic that the factory practices criticized by animal rights activists may turn out to be the best way to prevent the spread of at least one “disease” — bed bugs.

2 nobugsonme December 9, 2007 at 4:11 pm

True, though I am sure it is possible to run a “clean” non-battery set-up.

3 parakeets December 9, 2007 at 8:38 pm

I picked my name, Parakeets, partly because bedbugs bit my parakeets, and the pesticides my landlord used probably killed my parakeets since after our building was treated, all the parakeets in the building died. From anecdotal evidence of bedbugs in my own apartment biting my birds, I could see this research being very interesting. If they were called “blood-sucking chicken bugs” instead of bedbugs, maybe we’d get more response from the government in controlling them.

4 lieutenantdan December 10, 2007 at 11:24 am

Maybe I am way off in thinking this way but here it goes.
If so many bbs exist in chicken breeding facilities could bbs be in the packaging and shipping trucks and could they then infest your home because of bb infested shipping containers etc…? I viewed a promo video a year ago from Bayer that is meant to be viewed by the Pest Control industry only and it has some pest industry notable guys educating the PCOs about bbs. They talk about chicken coupes being infested and even show crude video of what is supposed to be a facility and bbs running in swarms. They speak about how they tried to exterminate a government barracks somewhere in Alaska and all human barrack population left for the winter due to freezing temps and came back in the spring only to find that the bbs were still thriving, so freezing cold did not kill the bbs.

5 nobugsonme December 10, 2007 at 12:29 pm

HI Dan,
That does seem a bit extreme.
Did you watch this industry video online? Is it something we can watch for ourselves?

6 lieutenantdan January 22, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Hi nobugsonme,
I actually had the dvd sent to me from someone that I spoke to at Bayer. I viewed it when I first discovered my infestation back in Oct 2006, it was disgusting, it freaked me out. At that time I wondered if our infestation started with a bug or two that was hitching in a store bought chicken or chicken parts. We understand that bed bugs can survive freezing cold temps so it did concern me. The dvd was put together to inform professionals about bed bugs but was of course pro company. I probably have it somewhere but I would be concerned to put it up for view because of probable legal issues. The dvd also showed procedures on how to exterminate a room, they used a hotel room. The instructor gave a step by step demo taking apart the beds headboard, taking out drawers and behind picture frames and of course using his companies products. I felt that it was true to heart though, procedures were correct. His partner also had bbs in a jar that he held up to his arm and let the bbs bite him, just like Lou does. The chicken coupe was a very short segment showing swarms of what they said was bed bugs running across the floor. The swarm kind of resembled a bird swarm during maybe a migration. I could not tell if they were actually bed bugs but my heart tells me that they probably were, especially now that we have seen writings and info on this from other sources.

7 Chickenbugdogexpert September 4, 2008 at 9:42 pm

I am pleased to announce the availability of our chicken bug dog.

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