An ancient human scourge has returned to cause panic among home and property owners, home buyers and realtors. Bed bugs have invaded every state in the U.S. and reports of infestations have increased exponentially nationwide over the past few years. In a national survey of pest control companies conducted by noted bed bug authority Michael Potter for Pest Management Professional, Potter found, “A whopping 91% of respondents reported their organizations had encountered bed bug infestations in the past two years. Only 37% said they encountered bed bugs more than 5 years ago.”
Until a few years ago, most pest control companies said it was unusual to receive even one or two calls a year about bed bugs. Since 2004, however, bed bug complaints have grown exponentially with pest control companies nationwide now averaging between 10 and 50 calls a week. In major metropolitan areas, some companies are fielding 100 or more bed bug complaints Pest control each week. Some experts are predicting that 2008 will be the Year of the Bed Bug. Cindy Mannes, spokesperson for the National Pest Management Association, said bed bugs have become a serious problem in every state, noting, “There are some who call it the pest of the 21st century.”
Bed bugs are an equal opportunity pest. Infestations have occurred across the country in the tony co-ops of the rich and famous, in fashionable condominiums, in luxury apartments and in upscale suburban homes. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are not caused by filth or dirt. Like lice and fleas, bed bugs are creatures of convenience. A nuisance insect, they are not known to carry disease, but they can cause considerable discomfort, both mental and physical.
All but eradicated in the U.S. following World War II, the banning of powerful DDT-based pesticides, coupled with increased international travel, has brought about a nationwide resurgence of the annoying insect. Potter, an urban entomologist at the University of Kentucky, calls bed bugs the pre-eminent household pest in the U.S., on a par with cockroaches and rats. “This is one serious issue,” he recently told the New York Times. “This will be the pest of the 21st century – no questions about it.”
If you’re buying a house or looking for a new condo or apartment, take to heart the old adage Buyer Beware. You may be moving into a home that has been invaded by bed bugs. Most states require home sellers to provide buyers with an accurate statement disclosing the property’s condition, including pest infestations. However, there are loopholes that should serve as a red flag to home buyers and their realtors. Most real estate disclosure statements are fairly broad and do not specifically ask about bed bug infestations. If any pest disclosure is specified, it’s likely to be termites. Because bed bugs haven’t been a problem in the United States for so many decades, few current state or municipal codes address them specifically. In many states, sellers can choose not to fill out the disclosure statement and instead pay a penalty which is credited to the buyer. For sellers with a bed bug problem, a several hundred dollar penalty may seem an acceptable price for making the sale.