Bed bugs now resisting common insecticides

Bed bugs, everyone's least favorite hotel guests, may be becoming harder to get rid of. 

A new study shows bed bugs in the U.S. are developing resistances to neonicotinoids, the most commonly used insecticide in fighting the pests. How resistant? Researchers told the BBC that bed bugs found in Cincinnati and Michigan required concentrations as much as 1,000 times larger than previously needed in order to dispose of them.

Insects, like viruses, often develop immunities to chemicals used to eliminate them over time. What troubles researchers in both fields is the speed at which both categories of bugs adapt to our methods of disposal, with researchers warning bed bugs were growing resistant to chemicals as early as 2011 due to the frequent need to treat bed nets and linens for the pests. Now, due to their heightened resistances toward neonicotinoids, experts are recommending alternative treatment methods such as heat or cold.

"Unfortunately, the insecticides we were hoping would help solve some of our bed bug problems are no longer as effective as they used to be, so we need to re-evaluate some of our strategies for fighting them,” Troy Anderson, an assistant professor of entomology at Virginia Tech and study co-author, told Discovery. "While we all want a powerful tool to fight bed bug infestations, what we are using as a chemical intervention is not working as effectively as it was designed and, in turn, people are spending a lot of money on products that aren’t working."

During the 1950s and 60s, bed bugs were hardly seen in American hotels due to powerful but dangerous, and now illegal, chemicals such as DDT. Once easily purchased at a corner drugstore, without them bed bugs were able to bounce back and check in at hotels around the country. Now, mainstream outlets such as Fox News are offering tips for finding the pests, something many of today's travelers already do after check-in.

Currently, the bed bugs with high tolerance toward neonicotinoids have only been found in Cincinnati and Michigan, but one can wonder where else resistant insects might be lurking.