Canine Bed Bug Inspection Accuracy Study

By M. Pfiester, PG Koehler, and RM Pereira- Department of Entomology, University of Florida, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

University of Florida researchers did a study on the ability of trained canines to detect live bed bugs and their eggs. Dogs were able to reliably detect the presence of bed bugs vs. other insects with a positive accuracy rate of 97.5% and no false positives. The dogs also were able to reliably distinguish between live bed bugs and eggs, and dead bed bugs, feces, and cast skins with a 95% positive indication rate and only a 3% false positive rate. This study strongly supports the use of trained canines like ours in the use of live bed bug and viable bed bug egg detection.

The bed bug, Cimex lectularius L., like other bed bug species, is difficult to visually locate because it is cryptic. Detector dogs are useful for locating bed bugs because they use olfaction rather than vision. Dogs were trained to detect the bed bug (as few as one adult male or female) and viable bed bug eggs (five, collected 5-6 d after feeding) by using a modified food and verbal reward system. Their efficacy was tested with bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs placed in vented polyvinyl chloride containers. Dogs were able to discriminate bed bugs from Camponotus floridanus Buckley, Blattella germanica (L.), and Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar), with a 97.5% positive indication rate (correct indication of bed bugs when present) and 0% false positives (incorrect indication of bed bugs when not present). Dogs also were able to discriminate live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs from dead bed bugs, cast skins, and feces, with a 95% positive indication rate and a 3% false positive rate on bed bug feces. In a controlled experiment in hotel rooms, dogs were 98% accurate in locating live bed bugs. A pseudoscent prepared from pentane extraction of bed bugs was recognized by trained dogs as bed bug scent (100% indication). The pseudoscent could be used to facilitate detector dog training and quality assurance programs. If trained properly, dogs can be used effectively to locate live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs.