Maine is not immune to the national proliferation of those nasty biting insects called bedbugs.

“We’ve got plenty of them in Maine, in hotels, apartments and houses . . . Certainly, we’re hearing a lot more reports of them,” said Jim Dill, an entomologist and pest-management specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

“It’s been a steady increase in the last 10 years. People controlling them are booked out four, five, six weeks in advance.”

The bedbug infestation was reported earlier this summer in New York City. The problem  was quickly observed in other cities and rural states, too. Much of it is blamed on people’s increase in national and international travel.

Dill said bedbug populations have been slowly increasing for decades. He said the insect was almost completely wiped out by the pesticide DDT in the 1940s. But the use of DDT was banned in 1972 and alternative pesticides were not so effective. Bedbugs gradually returned. Their population took a big increase as travel soared, giving the pests a free ride from place to place.

Dill said bedbugs don’t transmit disease the way mosquitoes do.

“Even though there’s a stigma attached to them, they don’t have anything to do with filthy conditions,” he said. “In New York City, bedbug-sniffing dogs found bedbugs in a penthouse suite that was owned by a pair of world travelers.”

Dill said adult bedbugs are dark, round and about one-quarter-inch long. He said they run quite rapidly and do not jump.

Baby bedbugs, the nymphs, are white, small, and very hard to see.

“Not everybody reacts the same way to their bites,” Dill said. “They inject saliva, to numb the area and let the blood flow a little better. People react to that.”

Dill described his technique for avoiding bedbugs when he travels. “Most people, when they check into a hotel, they flop their suitcase on the bed,” he said. “When I travel, I flop my suitcase in the bathtub and then I look around. I take the headboard off the bed and really check for bedbugs. If I find any, I ask for another room.”

He said the most common way for bedbugs to get into homes is by hitchhiking in suitcases, backpacks and purses left on infested beds during travel. “They’re hardy. They can go a month without a blood meal,” he said.

The best way to get rid of bedbugs from a home, according to Dill, is to call a professional exterminator. “To treat them yourself is costly and difficult,” he said.

Exterminators use heat against the hardy pests, Dill said. They heat the air up to 130 to 140 degrees, which kills all the bedbugs in that room.

At the present time, Dill said there’s no end in sight to the proliferation of the bedbug population.