Bedbug summit opens in Chicago

North America's first bedbug summit opened in Chicago with a sellout audience and a slate of entomologists representing top universities such as Yale and Cornell.

Top entomologists gather to discuss re-emergence of the 'little hitchhikers'

North America's first bedbug summit opened in Chicago on Tuesday morning with a sellout audience and a slate of entomologists representing top universities such as Yale and Cornell.

This photo provided by Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, shows adult and immature bedbugs. Bedbug infestations have become so widespread that top experts are meeting in Chicago to find solutions. (Tim McCoy/Virginia Tech Department of Entomology/Associated Press)

"This summit really represents access to the best information available on bedbugs to date," said organizer Phillip Cooper, president of BedBug Central.

His organization is an information resource that has a public website providing information on health, treatment and prevention methods.

"This summit will provide a sophisticated level of information to a variety of industries that can be lost in smaller or less specific seminars," he said.

Bedbugs, which were nearly eradicated 50 years ago, have been making a comeback in North America due to the banning of DDT and other toxic chemicals.

Bedbugs are also becoming resistant to many of the chemicals currently used against them.

Edmonton exterminator John Van Ginkel told CBC News he's seeing a large increase in calls from consumers.

"Bedbugs have just increased, like phenomenal. I'm getting more and more calls — I'm basically booked up two to three weeks in advance."

Van Ginkel has been travelling to Alberta and even parts of B.C. to snuff out infestations.

Delores Stewart displays bedbugs found in her home in Columbus, Ohio. A resurgence of bedbugs across North America has homeowners and apartment dwellers taking desperate measures to eradicate the tenacious bloodsuckers. ((Terry Gilliam/Associated Press))

"Everywhere, apartment buildings, residential buildings, we do a lot of seniors centres," he said. "It's not narrowed down to one specific area. Like it's not the north end of Edmonton or the south end. We've got calls from Calgary, everywhere."

At the Chicago summit, 14 top experts are leading sessions on the latest bedbug science, chemical treatments, fumigation and detection.

There are also special sessions focused on college and university housing as well as group homes and low-income housing.

At a trade show, participants can check out the latest in bedbug technology, such as sprayers and steamers. One company is offering a ring device that fastens around the leg of a bed to keep the bugs from climbing up.

There are also companies showing off bedbug detector dogs that can sniff out even the most evasive of bugs.

One thing participants agree on: It's easier to prevent bedbugs from entering a home than to get rid of them.

"Bedbugs aren't a fast-moving pest by any means. They're lazy and they'll pretty well stay put, but it's people dragging them around. Hitching rides, they're little hitchhikers," Van Ginkel told CBC News.