Public Release: 

Some bed bugs show early signs of resistance to 2 common insecticides

Study finds reduced susceptibility to chlorfenapyr and bifenthrin among some tested bed bug samples

Entomological Society of America

Annapolis, MD; April 7, 2017--Pest management professionals battling the ongoing resurgence of bed bugs are wise to employ a well-rounded set of measures that reduces reliance on chemical control, as new research shows the early signs of resistance developing among bed bugs to two commonly used insecticides.

In a study to be published next week in the Entomological Society of America's Journal of Economic Entomology, researchers at Purdue University found significantly reduced susceptibility to chlorfenapyr among three out of 10 bed bug populations collected in the field, and they found reduced susceptibility to bifenthrin among five of the populations.

The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) already shows significant resistance to deltamethrin and some other pyrethroid-class insecticides, which is viewed as a main cause of its resurgence as an urban pest. In fact, 68 percent of pest management professionals identify bed bugs as the most difficult pest to control, according to a 2015 Bugs Without Borders survey of pest management professionals conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky. Little research had yet been done, however, to examine potential resistance to bifenthrin (also a pyrethroid) or chlorfenapyr, a pyrrole-class insecticide, which led the Purdue researchers to investigate.

"In the past, bed bugs have repeatedly shown the ability to develop resistance to products overly relied upon for their control. The findings of the current study also show similar trends in regard to chlorfenapyr and bifenthrin resistance development in bed bugs," says Ameya D. Gondhalekar, Ph.D., research assistant professor at Purdue's Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management. "With these findings in mind and from an insecticide resistance management perspective, both bifenthrin and chlorfenapyr should be integrated with other methods used for bed bug elimination in order to preserve their efficacy in the long term."

They tested 10 populations of bed bugs that were collected and contributed by pest management professionals and university researchers in Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, DC, measuring the percent of bed bugs killed within seven days of exposure to the insecticides. Generally, populations in which more than 25 percent of the beg bugs survived were deemed to have reduced susceptibility to the insecticide based on statistical analysis performed in comparison to the susceptible laboratory population.

Interestingly, the researchers found a correlation between chlorfenapyr and bifenthrin susceptibility among the bed bug populations, which was unexpected because the two insecticides work in different ways. Gondhalekar says further research is needed to understand why the bed bugs that are less susceptible can withstand exposure to these insecticides, especially chlorfenapyr. In any case, adherence to integrated pest management practices will slow the further development of resistance.

"There is a plethora of research that has shown that if insecticides are integrated with additional control measures such as vacuuming, steam or heat, mattress encasements, traps, and desiccant dusts, effective bed bug control can be accomplished and theoretically this should reduce the risk of resistance build-up in populations," Gondhalekar says.

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"Detection of Reduced Susceptibility to Chlorfenapyr- and Bifenthrin-Containing Products in Field Populations of the Bed Bug (Hemiptera: Cimicidae)," by Aaron R. Ashbrook, Michael E. Scharf, Gary W. Bennett, and Ameya D. Gondhalekar, will be published online on April 10 in the Journal of Economic Entomology. Journalists may request advance copies of the study via the contact below.

CONTACT: Joe Rominiecki, jrominiecki@entsoc.org, 301-731-4535 x3009

ABOUT: ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has over 6,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, the Society stands ready as a non-partisan scientific and educational resource for all insect-related topics. For more information, visit http://www.entsoc.org.

Journal of Economic Entomology publishes research on the economic significance of insects and is the highest-cited journal in entomology. It includes sections on apiculture and social insects, insecticides, biological control, household and structural insects, crop protection, forest entomology, and more. For more information, visit https://academic.oup.com/jee, or visit https://academic.oup.com/insect-science to view the full portfolio of ESA journals and publications.

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