Bedbug Summit: Scientists, Exterminators Meet to Wipe Out Pests

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"For a 12 theater metroplex, you could be looking at $2-4,000 or more every time they inspect it," he said. "That's just inspecting. That's not even treating."

The problem has become so pervasive, and so expensive, that at least five states have called on the Department of Defense for money to eradicate these pests. The state of Ohio was so desperate that it asked the Environmental Protection Agency to use a banned chemical to fight the bugs. The EPA said no.

Bedbugs were all but eradicated at the end of World War II — mostly due to the use of cheap, powerful chemicals like DDT. Those chemicals have since been banned because of toxic side effects — allowing bedbugs to make an explosive resurgence. Newer strains are resistant to some pesticides. The tiny bloodsuckers that burrow into mattresses and upholstery can live without feeding for up to a year, and females lay up to five eggs every day.

"There's something creepy about a bug that infests your house it gets in your bed and it comes out to feed on you at night while you're sleeping in your bed, which is your sanctuary," said White.

He and other experts say the best way to protect yourself and your home is to avoid secondhand upholstered furniture, and to know how to inspect your home and hotel rooms.

The areas that bedbugs commonly infest are the bottom of a bed's box springs and the back of the headboard. The best prevention, experts say, is to make sure the bugs never get a chance to hitch a ride into your home. Scientists are working on more effective chemicals and extermination techniques, but there is no "silver bullet."

"The bottom line is that bedbugs are here to stay, White said. "It's not a pretty picture, but that's the bottom line."

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