Driving international policy to eradicate a global pest

Bed bug

Before these guidelines were produced many legitimate urban-pest controllers were using compounds and techniques designed for other urban insect pests, such as cockroaches or termites, which had no effect on bed bugsā€¦ More worryingly, because there was no informed guidance on the application protocols, they were being used in a manner that was compounding the problem.

Professor Mike Siva-Jothy. Animal and Plant Sciences

Bed bugs are a major global pest particularly in developed urban population centres. An estimated 1 million people in New York alone are affected by bed bugs, and infestation control and associated costs in hospitality are estimated at $500 million per annum in the USA. Although they do not spread disease, their bites can cause skin irritation, fatigue through loss of sleep, and significant indirect effects on mental health.

In the USA, the use of inappropriate control measures, including ineffective chemicals and techniques meant for other urban insect pests, has exacerbated the population explosion. Failure to control local infestations has allowed bed bugs to spread and a low success rate in infestation control has stopped people from reporting them.

Since 1999, Professor Mike Siva-Jothy and his laboratory have been building up an extensive body of knowledge on bed bug biology, from their behaviour and evolution to ecology and immunity, generating most of our current understanding of this insect. The international reputation of this research group led the Environment Protection Agency of the USA to approach Professor Siva-Jothy to assist them in producing national standards and guidelines for bed bug infestation control.

In 2012, Siva-Jothy joined the Environment Protection Agency Scientific Advisory Panel and was involved in producing the first policy document to set regulations and professional standards for control measures, including defining how products for eradicating bed bugs should be tested. These new regulations will lead to more effective infestation control by professionals using approved chemicals and following set guidelines, with long term impacts on health and welfare, public policy and services, and industry.

Now on the advisory board of the National Pest Management Association of the USA, Professor Siva-Jothy intends to expand his work and apply his knowledge in other major international cities, contributing to stopping the spread of bed bugs worldwide.