September 21, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers scientist helps discover bed bug infestations increasing in number

Photo by Ramya Chitibomma |

A study performed by professors from different institutions, including Rutgers’ Changlu Wang, found that nearly half of all residents in apartments infested by bed bugs did not know. While most of the victims reported pain, only a few reported other symptoms.

When it comes to bed bugs, New Jersey is a highly infested state, said Dr. Changlu Wang, a professor in the Department of Entomology and researcher at Rutgers. 

Reported bed bug infestations are on the rise in recent years, according to the study conducted by Narinderpal Singh, Changlu Wang and Richard Cooper, published in the Oxford University Journal of Medical Entomology.

New Jersey, in particular, has numerous bed bug infestations. The cities near New York City are prime spots for bed bugs to thrive.

The study used a combination of interviews with residents, combined with community-wide inspection for bed bugs to provide an accurate assessment of bed bug prevalence within low-income apartment housing communities, according to the study.

The research team still approached the experiment sites with two purposes in mind. First, they wanted to answer research questions. The study ran resident interviews, visual inspections and utilized Climbup Insect Interceptors, Wang said. 

Second, they wanted to provide service to help eliminate bed bugs.

The study examined 2,373 low-income apartments in 43 buildings, across four cities. The overall infestation rate in the buildings was 12.3 percent.

About 49 percent of the infestations were in apartments with residents who were unaware of the bed bug activity, according to the study. 

“First, we would visually check the bed and the sofa areas,” Wang said. “If we found any signs, but cannot confirm (beg bugs), we would place a monitor in the apartment and then come back after one or two weeks.” 

The Climbup monitors would be placed under the furniture, he said. Then, the bed bugs would tend to crawl into the monitor and get stuck. 

“We were able to find a lot of apartments with a high population density of bed bugs. So, we were able to carry out a lot of different experiments in different cities, and so we obtained a lot of data,” Wang said. 

Generally, bed bugs thrive in apartment buildings where people move a lot, and also in low-income housing, Wang said.

Other pests are also typically found in the experiment site. Residents who have bed bugs tend to also have have cockroaches, rodents and other pests. 

“You will be amazed that some people are very tolerant to insects. You can find tens of thousands of insects in their homes, and people are not necessarily concerned,” Wang said. 

Bed areas typically trapped more bed begs in traps than sofas or upholstered chair areas, according to the study. 

Symptoms of bed bugs vary. Of the subjects, 90 percent of reported pain, 20 percent reported itchiness, 13 percent reported welts and 8 percent reported insomnia, according to the study. Some even report psychological distress. 

The experiment tackled many challenges.

Accessing the sites to search for bed bugs was one of the issues in the experiment. 

To find the sites where the bed bugs are can be difficult because many do not want you to go through their apartment, Wang said. People do not like other people coming into their apartment to search through their furniture for the pests because it takes a lot of time. 

People also may not always follow the experiment’s protocols prior to the researcher’s arrival, he said. 

Some may have bed bugs but cannot afford the treatments offered, he said. They lacked the resources to hire top-tier pest control services, had ineffective pest management plans and dealt with a lack of cooperation within the community, according to the study.

Compliance was made easier with building-wide surveys, mandating bed bug control. This allowed the research team access to the survey, Wang said. 

“The apartment managers have an internal policy for bed bug control, and everybody had to comply. That means that everyone needs to allow us to go in,” Wang said.

Despite these mandates, some residences still had their own locks and the team may not always be allowed in, he said. 

But overall, the residents were very accommodating to the researcher’s experiment.

Bed bugs are a social problem, Wang said.

Sometimes those burdened with bed bugs are denied service at health care providers or other public services, out of fear, according to the study.

“It is very important for us to educate the people to reduce pest problems, but also to invest time and effort to help those people to reduce pest problems,” Wang said.

Faith Hoatson is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Faith Hoatson

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