The bedbugs are biting
When Michael Potter’s phone rings—and it rings a lot these days—there’s a good chance someone wants to talk about bedbugs.
After some 50 years of near extinction in the United States, bedbugs are back, wreaking havoc in bedrooms and other sleeping areas across the country. Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, is the much-sought-after expert on the topic.
“I’m basically trying to bang the drum and get the word out about bedbugs so that the public can begin to understand this critter,” says Potter, who in recent weeks has fielded calls from Dateline NBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition.
It’s not that Potter has great affection for the bedbug, a tiny, oval-shaped pest with vampire-like habits.
“This is a cryptic, blood-sucking parasite that emerges at night to bite you while you’re sleeping,” he says.
What Potter does have is vast knowledge of the creature made famous in a children’s nursery rhyme and whose resurgence in the past few years has created as much anxiety as it has interest.
“People need to be aware this is not a childhood nursery rhyme,” says Potter, who is working closely with UK entomologists Ken Haynes and Dan Potter and doctoral student Alvaro Romero to study the “hottest bug issue in a generation.”
The bedbug, or Cimex lectularius, has been around since ancient times but didn’t find its way to America until the 1500s. Bedbug infestations in this country became especially common in the early part of the 20th century.
The bugs practically vanished after World War II, however, and Americans enjoyed a long period of bedbug-free nights. They first “hit the radar screen” again in 2001.
“I’ve been out on—and this is not an exaggeration—hundreds of bedbug infestations in the past two to three years. Prior to that, I had not ever encountered one,” Potter says.
Theories abound as to why there’s been a resurgence. Potter believes it’s most likely a result of changing cultural habits, including increased international travel to and emigration from countries where the bugs are prevalent, including Asia, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Central/South America. The practice of recycling mattresses and buying secondhand furnishings may also have contributed.
“Bedbugs are amazing hitchhikers,” he says. “They cling to anything. It doesn’t take much for a bedbug to get into a suitcase during a hotel stay.”
Along with many pest control experts, Potter believes bedbugs are making a comeback because the pesticides that once controlled the bugs have been banned.
“DDT was a phenomenal bedbug product that was used in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s before we lost it (in 1972). We have lost a number of products in the last five years. We do not have products today that are nearly as effective,” Potter says.
In addition, once bedbugs are introduced into a dwelling, they tend to spread room to room or apartment to apartment, creating a widespread and difficult-to-control infestation.
To prevent infestations, he says, “The best thing to do is to know the likely ways they can get into your home.”
Potter also advises people to know the symptoms of a bedbug problem.
“If you were fine when you went to sleep and you wake up in the morning and you’ve got mosquito-like welts on you, that’s suspicious,” he says.
If you suspect a bedbug problem, call a pest control professional. A professional is trained to spot the pests, whose flat shape and small size make it easy for them to hide in such places as seams, tufts, and crevices of a mattress, and in box springs, bed frames, and headboards. While the bed is ground zero, Potter stresses that bedbugs are also found in couches, behind picture frames, and other protected locations.
As for treatments, there are a variety of low-odor sprays, dusts, and aerosols that professionals can use against bedbugs. Treatments should be targeted yet thorough, and often require follow-ups, Potter says.
If there is good news about bedbugs, it’s that they are not known to spread diseases.
“But just because they don’t spread diseases doesn’t mean they’re not a problem,” he adds. “They’re creepy. They cause great anxiety. There’s a social stigma associated with them. It’s just very disconcerting when you have bedbugs living with you.”
—Terri McLean, UK Extension
Learning to compete in a flat world
by Dr. Thomas D. Layrell
As Thomas Friedman notes in his new book, The World Is Flat, we do live in a flat world. Technology has eliminated the barriers of space and time for many professions and jobs. It has also increased the value of educational attainment.
Nearly 60 percent of jobs require at least some postsecondary education, and that percentage is only going to increase in the future. As Gene Strong, secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development, noted recently, Kentucky is competitive in the race to attract manufacturing jobs, but less so with the knowledge-based jobs that will increasingly drive state and national economies. As Secretary Strong says, “We’ve gotten the kinds of jobs we can compete for.” Our challenge, therefore, is to raise Kentucky’s level of competitiveness to that required by the world we live in.
The investments made in postsecondary and adult education since the 1997 and 2000 reform legislation have produced impressive gains: postsecondary education enrollment has increased 27 percent, adult education enrollment has increased 149 percent, and degrees and certificates awarded have increased 37 percent. But we still have a long way to go, despite this progress.
Kentucky will need nearly 800,000 working-age adults with at least a baccalaureate degree to match the projected national average in 2020, nearly double the amount we had in 2000. If we make no change in our current rate of degree production, we will fall approximately 200,000 degree-holders short.
Achieving our goals will not be easy, quick, or cheap. Kentucky’s public colleges and universities are funded approximately $250 million below the average of their benchmark institutions in other states. We must increase our investments in postsecondary and adult education if we are to achieve our goals. We must also achieve unprecedented levels of performance and productivity at all levels of education.
The potential payoff is significant—Kentuckians will realize a cumulative increase of $71 billion in personal income and a cumulative increase of $5.3 billion in tax revenue if we reach our 2020 goals.
The challenges facing us are formidable, but the benefits of increased educational attainment justify the investment of time, effort, and resources that will be required.
Dr. Thomas D. Layzell is president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. He is the past president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, a former president of the National Association of System Heads, and former member of the Council of Presidents of the Association of Governing Boards.
Computers for school
One day last school year, Sarah Hiser, the school technology coordinator at Park City Elementary, traveled up the hill into Mammoth Cave National Park to pick up some surplus government property—five laptops and 13 computers through the Computers for Learning program.
The Web site www.computers.fed.gov is maintained by the General Services Administration, the property authority of the federal government. Schools like Park City register their needs on the site, then federal agencies like Mammoth Cave offer to donate excess computer equipment that the school needs. If the school accepts the offer, the transfer of property is handled online with very little bureaucratic paperwork.
David Vanarsdall, the park’s property manager, worked out the details.
“We’ve used this Web site several times to transfer property,” says Vanarsdall. “It’s a great way to get surplus government property out to schools that can benefit from our old computers.”
“We are honored and very excited to receive these computers,” says Hiser. “We have been in need of extra computers for quite some time but could not find the funding. We plan to use some of the computers to establish a mini-computer lab in our school. The other computers will be distributed among the classrooms so that they can be available for students to use for classroom assignments.”