by Maggie Fogarty

New Hampshire’s first-ever conference on bed bugs—NH Bites Back:  Working Together to Beat Bed Bugs—brought together nearly 200 landlords and tenants, hotel owners and pest control operators, home visitors and government officials from every region to achieve a common goal:  to learn the best and most cost-effective strategies for preventing and addressing bed bug infestations, a problem that has been challenging New Hampshire communities with a resurgence in the past five years.  The November 21 conference, held in Concord, was organized by the Bed Bug Action Committee, funded by the NH Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, and sponsored by Bed Bug Central, whose representatives were on hand to share information, best practices and effective products for prevention, monitoring and treatment.

Following a welcome by Commissioner Lorraine Merrill of the NH Department of Agriculture, participants learned from Dr. Gale Ridge, Ph.D. of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the “long and intimate history” that bed bugs and humans have shared for centuries. A panel discussion with local pest control experts shared the most up-to-date technologies related to monitoring, early detection and treatment, with a special appearance by “Jack,” part of the canine detection team at Atlantic Pest Solutions.  A second panel included Mark Foster, a Dover hotel owner who has tackled the bed bug problem head-on and purchased his own heating units and dog team to successfully respond to the constant threat of re-infestation that exists in the hotel business.  Joining him were Phil Alexakos, a municipal health officer who has helped create his city’s robust education and outreach program, and May Glovinski, from Dover Housing Authority, who shared practical ideas on responding to the many challenges of working with a persistent problem.

An afternoon panel with Gene Harrington, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Pest Management Association highlighted several federal and state legislative proposals which address various topics including landlord/tenant rights and responsibilities, pesticide use, notification requirements, housing code enforcement and waste disposal.  State Representative Pat Long shared the work of the New Hampshire Bed Bug Study Committee and announced an upcoming public hearing on January 20 at10 aminConcord.

An important element of the gathering was the time allotted for participants to gather in regional affinity groups to plan for local collaborations.  Each group was asked to name a contact person and commit to future meetings in the local community with additional participation from key stakeholder groups. 

The messages of the day included the following: 

  • Education for prevention is the most effective, and cost effective strategy.
  • Monitoring and early detection keep the problem under control and keep costs contained.
  • When hiring a pest control operator, choose a BedBugFREE certified company
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the only way to successfully treat a bed bug problem.
  • Pesticides must only be used by professionals.  Only a small number of chemicals are showing any signs of success, and only in the hands of trained professionals and in combination with other types of treatment.  Pesticides in the hands of untrained persons are futile and a severe health risk.
  • Only by working together will we get ahead of this problem.  Regional collaborations are key to designing and maintaining effective local strategies.

The Bed Bug Action Committee (BBAC) brings together community organizers, college and university staff and students, non-profit leaders, local business owners, teachers, health workers, local officials, tenants, church members, and volunteers, all committed to successfully addressing the problem of bed bugs in NH.  The Committee was formed and continues to be co-chaired by the AFSC and the Granite State Organizing Project.