Bedbugs have crawled their way onto the national agenda. Federal environmental regulators are hosting the first-ever "bedbug summit" to discuss emerging infestations of the insects around the country.

At the behest of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some 300 people gathered in Arlington, Va., yesterday and today to swap ideas about how to get rid of the critters, whose bites make up to half of victims itchy with hives. While there's no official count of how many people are bitten, cities including New York, Chicago, Boston and Cincinnati have reported growing bedbug problems, which experts blame in part on declining use of pesticides amid concerns about their health effects.

"One of our roles would be to learn of new products or safer products," Lois Rossi, director of the registration division in the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, told the Associated Press. "What we are concerned about is that if people take things into their own hands and start using pesticides on their mattresses that aren't really registered for that, that's a problem."

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) plans to introduce the "Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite Act" next week that would increase funds for public housing authorities to tackle the problem. The pest-control industry is calling for the feds to pump more cash into researching chemical alternatives to wiping out the bugs, such as heating, freezing or steaming them out of homes and hotels, according to the AP. In the interim, Dini Miller, an entomologist at Virginia Tech, told the newswire that EPA could speed up approval of new pesticides for emergency use.

To learn more about these pesky creatures, read our Ask the Experts piece on bedbugs.

Image of bedbug/CDC, Piotr Naskrecki via Wikimedia Commons