Bed bugs and borders at Pest-Protect

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Bed bugs and, in particular, the extent to which this old pest has re-invaded Germany, together with some of the options pest professionals have to deal with them were the main focus for the seminar programme at Pest-Protect in Stuttgart, Germany on 2 and 3 March 2016.
It was interesting to hear comments from some of the delegates that much of Germany is in denial when it comes to bed bugs. Austria and Switzerland might have a problem but those bed bugs know not to try to cross the border into Germany!

These comments, of course, are just opinions and we made no attempt to conduct a proper survey of views. They were reinforced however by the fact that, at least one presenter, felt the need to explain that bed bugs are not only associated with poor quality housing, hostels, backpackers and refugee centres, but can also turn up in swanky five star hotels. This suggested that at least some German pest professionals are not as well versed as they might be when it comes to Cimex lectularius.

The panel discussion on the afternoon of 3 March threw further light on the situation. Experts and delegates alike bemoaned the fact that there was no centralised gathering of data on the incidence of bed bugs and so no national picture of the extent of the problem.

Pest-Protect expert panelThe expert panel. From left Dr Harald Fá¤nger, Killgerm, Dr Carolina Bauer-Dubau, freelance consultant, Dr Eric Schmolz, UBA (Federal Environment Ministry), Bá¤rbel Holl, pest controller and chairman of the Ecologic National Pest Association and Adreas Beckmann fom DSV

An increasing problem?
Andreas Beckmann, chief executive of the German pest control association Deutscher Schá¤dlingsbeká¤mpfer Verband eV (DSV), explained that the association had seen an increase in enquires about bed bugs. The DSV website asks enquirers which pests they are looking for help with. Of 15,000 datasets collected last year a third were requests about bed bugs. Whilst this does not mean a third of enquirers were actually suffering from a bed bug infestation, it does show that many people think they might have a bed bug problem.

A pest controller from Berlin agreed that bed bugs were increasing. He commented that 20 years ago there were maybe two cases of bed bugs a year, ten years ago around one a month, but that now bed bugs are an everyday topic in his business.

Dr Eric Schmolz from UBA (the Federal Environment Ministry) pointed out however that there was little prospect of official data being collected saying: “There is no legal provision to collect data on mosquitoes and they carry diseases, so what chance for bed bugs!”

Several delegates talked about the ways in which bed bugs are being transported into Germany through increased international travel, more backpackers and more recently the refugee crisis.

Familiar territory
It was interesting to note that much of the ground covered in the discussion was familiar territory. Some in the audience voiced concerns about the lack of knowledge amongst pest controllers on how to deal with bed bugs. However, Dr Harald Fá¤nger from Killgerm was adamant that pest control training now covered the topic very well and that there was plenty of instruction to be had on how to deal with the problem. Andreas added that the European Code of Bed Bug Management, published by the Bed Bug Foundation, has been adopted by DSV. A dual language (English and German) copy was included in every delegate pack.

Other topics raised included the need for client education, particularly on how long it can take to control bed bugs, the lack of knowledge about bed bugs amongst health professionals and the fact that there is no one authority in Germany that is prepared to take ownership of public health pest control matters. There was broad agreement that bed bug treatments are a challenge and that often a combination of approaches are needed. Chemicals must be applied correctly, freezing and thermal treatments may be needed although these are more expensive and therefore not always an option. Customers too need to do their bit, for example, some items of furniture etc may have to be thrown away.

No resistance
Where the debate differed was in the lack of concern about insecticide resistance in bed bugs. Resistance was seen as something that the USA and Australia had to deal with, but not Germany. Whilst there was some discussion about the need for a standard measure for resistance – the European system produces lower resistance factors than the US one – the consensus was that resistance levels in Germany were generally low.

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