Tim Gibb looking at bed bugs under a microscope (Photo courtesy of Michael Heinz/Journal & Courier)
During the fall semester last year, Purdue University had one confirmed case of bed bugs in a residence hall because the bugs were carried in by a student, said Wendy Tommas-Dolick, assistant director for facilities and maintenance in University Residences.
As soon as residence hall staff became aware of the bugs, they contacted pest control, she said.
"If we have any suspicions, pest control is contacted immediately, regardless of if it's confirmed or not," Tommas-Dolick added.
Bed bugs have been virtually extinct in America since World War II, but frequent international travel, removal of pesticides and a resistance to other chemicals has created the perfect climate for their return.
Consequently, the blood-sucking bugs are back -- ushering in a resurgence throughout the world, in the United States and right here in Greater Lafayette, according to entomologists.
In response, entomologists are cautioning institutions and individuals to be proactive when it comes to bed bugs and to avoid the tendency to sweep them under the rug.
Marc Lame, an entomologist at Indiana University in Bloomington, said scientists believe people are bringing the bed bugs from the Middle East and South Asia. This is an insect that has co-evolved with humans so wherever humans have been, bed bugs have been, he added.
However, the bugs can travel from the Middle East to places such as Canada and Western Europe.
"It's a traveler's pest," he said.
Also, since bed bugs have been virtually extinct in this country, the average American today knows nothing about them, which Lame said is another reason for the resurgence.
"They could be living with bed bugs and not even know it," he said. "We are a very naive bed bug society in the Western world right now."
Although institutions such as universities and even cities are keeping the bed bug situation quiet, Lame said they should be doing the exact opposite because most people need to be educated on the topic.
Timothy Gibb, Purdue University entomologist, said the people who have the infestations are aware of the resurgence, but the average American is probably not.
Although bed bugs do not transmit diseases, they are the disease, Gibb said. They suck blood, are difficult to control and spread easily from one infected area to another.
"Bed bugs are a serious pest in that people will go to great measures to prevent them," Gibb said. "People are pretty much turned off by going to bed with bugs that suck blood."