Bed bug infestations
Some months may be better than others for heading mom’s advice about sleeping tight and not letting the bed bugs bite.
Bed bug infestations have been increasing — and are at their highest in August and lowest in February, Penn Medicine epidemiologists, have determined after studying four years of bed bug reports from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
“There is surprisingly very little known about seasonal trends among bed bug populations,” said Michael Z. Levy, assistant professor in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Penn. “We found a steep and significant seasonal cycle in bed bug reporting, and suspect that bed bugs have different levels of mobility depending on the season, and that their population size may fluctuate throughout the year.”
Examining records from 2008 to 2012, researchers found a nearly 70 percent increase in bed bugs reports year-to-year. Most recently, from September 2011 to June 2012, Philadelphia residents made 236 reports of bed bug infestations, according to the study.
“We found warm weather could be a driver for migration to other homes and breeding,” Levy said. “We may be able to exploit this cycle: These seasonal trends could guide control programs to help reduce a city’s growing bug population.”
The question that remains is when is the best time to go after the bed bugs.
“We know the bug reports fluctuate over the year. What we need to figure out now is whether to treat when they are at their worst, in the summer months, or whether to wait until their numbers are down in the winter,” Levy said. “Seasonality, we noticed, is just one attribute that can eventually aid control measures, but it is one of many attributes we hope to uncover.”
The study is part of a larger projected aimed at developing safer, cheaper and more effective ways to control bed bugs in urban settings. Levy and his team are already using surveillance, tracking and treatment methods in South Philadelphia.
The study’s findings were reported in the latest edition of the Journal of Medical Entomology. Penn Medicine researcher Tarub S. Mabud was first author of the report.