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Friday, February 4, 2011

Expert talks bedbugs and other house pests

  Mat Bihi       Friday, February 4, 2011
Kevin J. Kordek loves few things more than kicking back with family and friends in his outdoor oasis, a backyard retreat complete with pool, hot tub and cabana.
But Hampton Roads' winter is far from amenable now. And, besides, as president of the National Pest Management Association and a successful small-business owner, the Virginia Beach resident has little time these days for summer dreaming.
Travel keeps Kordek, owner of A-Active Termite & Pest Control Co., busy as he represents the NPMA, a nonprofit organization with more than 4,600 member companies. Recently, the post took him on a humanitarian mission to earthquake-torn Haiti to help combat severe insect infestations in Port-Au-Prince hospitals.
There, even the simplest measure to battle bugs - window screens - are too expensive for the struggling country, Kordek said.
With all that traveling, the entomologist is keenly aware of another industry hot topic: bedbugs. According to The New York Times, the blood-sucking insects topped the "110 Things Talked About in 2010" list.
"Bedbugs evoke such an emotional response in people," Kordek said. "No one wants to be laying in their bed or sitting at their desk and be fed on."


The pest-control industry is hopping because of the bedbug outbreak. Have you seen anything of this magnitude before?
They have certainly attracted more media attention than most other pests, which has spurred public awareness. At this point there are many questions that don't have meaningful answers. Bedbugs are resistant to many of the products available, and this is driving innovation and science.
It is my belief that more research is required and that it is the role of the government to appropriate funding for research to the academic community to develop better and more cost-effective strategies to battle this pest.
With respect to the magnitude...bedbugs have quickly grown as a pest that has evoked a very emotional response and driven hysteria. Bedbugs need to be better understood, and that will calm the emotions and help us find solutions. The first thing that is needed is public education.

What are the signs of a bedbug infestation to look for?
It depends on the circumstances, but live insects are obviously the first thing. Following that it is fecal staining, shed skins, eggs (very tough to see), blood stains on sheets or other bedding. Again, education is the key.

What do you recommend to help people keep bedbugs out of their homes?
Back to public awareness: People need to know that they can pick up this little hitchhiker any place that people congregate. Bedbug identification and how to inspect for bedbugs will be key to solving this problem. Once the education is complete, behavior modification will be the most useful tool in "preventing" bedbugs.

Bedbugs are one thing, but they can't destroy your home. What pests are a danger to one's home?
Termites are undoubtedly the most destructive insect pest, but excessive moisture conditions can create more damage and create conducive conditions to infestation from fungi and insects. Vigilance and awareness of what to look for is key to minimizing the destructive effects of pests.

What pests are of particular nuisance here in Hampton Roads?
Hampton Roads is a buggy place. With the exception of termites, ants would have to be the most prevalent insect pest, followed by various roach species, rodents (rats specifically), spiders in the fall and nuisance wildlife in the spring and fall.

Are pests seasonal - i.e. more kinds we see in warm weather, and other kinds in cool weather?
Winter in Hampton Roads is still very active. Many pests infest the inside of structures and need routine treatments to keep the populations from reaching "pest status." Spring, summer and fall present many outdoor pest problems and is a busier time.

What are the best steps people can take to protect their homes from pests?
Prevent moisture intrusion and/or excessive moisture in crawl spaces. Regular maintenance and landscaping around structures make them less likely to have conditions conducive to pest infestation. Regular professional inspections are a good idea for property owners who don't know what they are looking for.
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