Bed bugs are making a comeback, but Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has an on-demand online course to protect you and your home from this unwanted visitor.
People have a visceral reaction to the words “bed bugs,” said Janet Hurley, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist, Dallas. She and other AgriLife Extension IPM specialists created a $25 online program to help people learn how to effectively protect themselves from the pest.
Bed bugs have hitched rides via human movement for centuries before the pests were finally brought under control during the age of heavy chemical use, Hurley said. But after chemicals like DDT and organophosphates were decommissioned, they made a comeback.
Resistance to pesticides and modern travel habits are driving the pest’s resurgence in the U.S., she said.
“For decades, bed bugs weren’t a problem, but since 2010 incidents have kept increasing,” she said.
Protect home, self from bed bugs
The one-hour online course teaches participants how to check for bed bugs, what they look like, how to get rid of them, and modern treatment options.
Picking up bed bugs during a hotel stay is a common scenario, Hurley said.
“People travel for work or vacation, and they never know it until they have a reaction to the bites, and by then they may have spread them to other locations, including their own home,” she said. “One of the instructional videos covers how to look for signs of bed bugs in hotel rooms and avoid those little hitchhikers.”
Hurley’s family was caught in that scenario during a trip to Italy last year. They didn’t realize bed bugs were the issue until they were returning home and had to treat their suitcases and clothes by stuffing them into freezers for two weeks to kill the pests.
The program is research- and fact-based and includes simple things every homeowner can do to be aware of and be better protected from infestations, Hurley said.
“The course provides good information, especially for travelers,” she said. “Education is knowledge, and it’s good knowledge to have whether you’re going to Europe in the future or taking a weekend road trip.”
Going through the course can also give homeowners good insight into questions they may want to ask professional pest controllers who might enter their home.
As for people in the pest control industry, the course would also provide them with essential information, Hurley said. The course offers one structural Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education credits for applicators.
The course is available on demand and accessible at any time once an account is created and paid for, Hurley said. Participants can go through it at their own speed and come in and out at their convenience.
It is somewhat interactive, she said, with slides and photos that include narration and videos. There is a final exam with a 70% efficiency requirement at the end for applicators seeking the one structural pest management continuing education units.
The course will cover:
- Reasons bed bugs are making a comeback.
- How to recognize bed bugs and common signs.
- Health impacts of bed bugs.
- Bed bug life stage intervals, including lifespan without a host.
- The importance of proactive detection for apartment managers.
- The role of encasements in bed bug management.
- Use of pitfall traps in bed bug management.
- Five options for treating customers’ bagged belongings.
- Lethal temperatures for bed bugs.
- Insecticides categorized/labeled for bed bug control by their modes of action.
“The course is worth the hour for anyone who wants their household to have the peace of mind knowing about common ways bed bugs enter homes, how to recognize their presence and what to do next,” she said. “It’s just good, straight-forward information to know.”