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With Bedbugs, Some People See Pests, Others See Profits

I'm Alex Villarreal with the VOA Special English Economics Report, from | They are not even five millimeters long and cannot fly or jump. Yet bedbugs strike fear in homeowners and business owners. Well, not all business owners. Some see money in these little bloodsuckers. Missy Henriksen speaks for the National Pest Management Association. She says they are now seeing bedbugs in unusual places: schools and hospitals, store and movie theaters. So, as the numbers have grown, those bed bugs are spreading out and traveling along with people.New York and other cities have outbreaks. But the United States is not the only country affected. Jeff White is an insect expert who hosts Bed Bug TV on the website BedBug Central. He says the lack of public awareness has caused this rapid expansion of bedbug infestations. Mr. White says bedbugs nearly disappeared from the United States for fifty or sixty years. Now researchers are looking for faster, safer ways to control them without the kinds of poisons used in the past.The name is misleading. Bedbugs do not just live in beds. Mr. White says they can survive for a year without food -- that is, blood. In September, an industry event called BedBug University's North American Summit 2010 took place near Chicago, Illinois. More than three hundred sixty people attended the two-day meeting.The industry says bedbugs are the most difficult pest to control. Treatments can cost from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in a hotel or apartment building. Missy Henriksen says Americans spent almost two hundred sixty million dollars on bedbug treatments last year. That was only five percent of total spending on pest control but that number does not include other costs. She says the total economic effect is much greater. Businesses that have bedbugs often must close to solve the problem. Bedbugs have not been shown to spread disease. But they can leave itchy bite marks and cause allergic reactions in some people. Lately, however, another bug has caught America's attention. The National Pest Management Association is now getting the most questions about stink bugs. Outbreaks have invaded homes and offices in many states. Stink bugs are harmless except to farms and gardens. And they smell bad only if you smash them. For VOA Special English I'm Alex Villarreal. You can get transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our shows at And follow us on Facebook, Twitter and iTunes at VOA Learning English. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 01Oct2010)
Length: 04:01


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