Bedbugs make a comeback
Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness News
Indianapolis - The resurgence of an old pest is causing concern in Indiana and across the nation. The bedbug is back big time, and they can be found everywhere, including five star hotels and your own mattress.
Eyewitness News found an Indianapolis home infested with a problem that's become so severe that some are calling it not far from epidemic.
"They're here. They're here to stay. They're going to be transferred anywhere humans are," said Elia Levin, pest control company owner.
They are bedbugs. They are about the size of an apple seed and their populations are exploding across the country. Hiding in mattresses, bed sheets, couches and even luggage, they have a sole purpose.
"Ecologically, their role in life is that they are predators on mammals and blood feeders," said Prof. Tom Turpin, Purdue University etomologist.
Their prey includes humans, sleeping soundly while the bedbug, travelling through walls and electrical outlets, finds its prey and feeds, gorging on human blood and often leaving telltale bite marks on their victims.
The old saying, "sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" had real meaning before World War Two. The insect was popularized in "Mean Old Bedbug Blues," a 1927 jazz recording by Bessie Smith.
After the war, insecticides came alone and wiped out the bedbug in North America until international travel reintroduced the population, now up by some estimates as much as 500 percent.
They're found in apartments, five-star hotels and everywhere in between. Elia Levin's Gold Seal Pest Company is mining gold in the bedbugs' explosive population in Indianapolis. His company kills the bedbug with traditional pesticides and a more modern technique using heat.
"I've seen them falling off ceilings. Clustered on ceilings. They are that bad, three, four, five inches thick on mattresses," said Levin.
Unlike others pests, bedbugs don't thrive in unsanitary conditions. They don't fly or jump, but they do hitch hike in things we haul around. There are very few areas of the country not seeing an increase.
"The resurgence of the bedbug is nothing short of remarkable. Very few pests inside of a building have gotten the foothold that bedbugs have," said Greg Baumann, National Pest Management Association.
While there's no evidence that begbugs spread disease, researchers say that the prospect of eliminating the insect doesn't look promising.
"Because they hide in difficult places to reach with insecticide, it's tough to wipe out a population," said Turpin.
The population can go from one to thousands quickly with humans in the bedbugs crosshairs, all looking for their next meal. Experts tell us there are really no "home cures" effective against eliminating bed bugs once they're established in a home and that it's best left to a reputable pest control management company to get rid of them.