Man’s best friend has a new mission: find bed bugs. America’s bed bug population declined drastically in the mid-century due largely to pesticides such as DDT. But global travel is bringing the bedbug back to America. Never fear, Fido may become the new nemesis of the bedbugs. As resurgent bedbugs repopulate in America, bed bug dogs are coming to the rescue.
Bed bugs are parasitic insects that consume blood of dogs, cats, even mice and rats, but they prefer human blood. Bedbugs prefer darkness but they are sometimes active during the day, if there is a good meal to be had. They like to squeeze into cracks and crevices, hiding in the day and then coming out at night to bite their victims. Carried in the clothing and luggage of unsuspecting travelers, hotels are the prime contact point for infestation for infestation of bedbugs. Dogs, which have the ability to detect scents several hundred times that of humans, can be trained to sniff out the pests, in the same manner that dogs have been trained to detect drugs and bombs.
Bed bugs are opportunistic, hitching a ride on pets, furniture, backpacks, wild animals, as well as crawling along ductwork, wiring, pipes or false ceilings to infest adjoining areas. Being 4 to 5 millimeters long and 1.5 to 3 millimeters wide, they can be difficult to detect, hiding in small spaces. Often mistaken for other bugs such as booklice and small cockroaches, bedbugs can live as long as a year without food. Translucent at birth, mature bedbugs are light brown to reddish brown, oval-shaped flat looking bugs. A hardy species, it take temperatures above 113 degrees to kill them, or below -26 degrees to kill bedbugs.
Dogs are able to detect the pheromones and kairomones that bed bugs secrete for communication in mating, nesting and feeding activities. Like many insects, when crushed, bed bugs emit a distinctly foul odor. There is also a bed bug alarm pheromone, which is a chemical that they secrete when disturbed or threatened. The alarm pheromone is also released when male bed bugs attempt to mate with other male bedbugs. The male bed bug will attempt to mate with any blood-gorged bedbug nearby, regardless of sex. A healthy, full of blood bed bug is a mating target, which seems natural since being full of blood makes them active and healthy, ready to make more bedbugs. Dogs can detect the subtle odors of the bed bugs and tell you if your prospective motel room or apartment is infested with them.
Now you can add the bed bug sniffing capabilities to your long list of why Fido is man’s best friend!