Bed Bugs Aren't Biting Locally
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Across the country, they've been found at luxury hotels and
movie theaters and seemingly every place in between in the past two
years - with one national news program going so far as to call them
the "scourge of America."
But with the bedbug invasion afoot, how badly did the
quarter-inch-long insects hit Fort Wayne?
It's hard to tell, but if reports to various agencies are any
indication, bedbugs either didn't make it here in droves or are
being vastly underreported by those who live in city apartment
complexes or have stayed in area hotels.
While bedbugs do not infect humans with diseases, the insects can
leave bites on a person that can cause itching and
The bigger a bedbug infestation, the more someone might be on the
wrong end of bites, which typically result in small red
Only three apartment complexes were cited for having bedbugs in
2011, according to records provided by Neighborhood Code, which is
responsible for looking into bedbug problems in city apartment
complexes and hotels.
That's up from two apartment complexes cited in 2010, but, all in
all, officials at Neighborhood Code have found little evidence of
the bug amidst the heavy national news blitz that reported
outbreaks in bigger cities such as New York and Boston.
That might be because apartment managers were aggressive in getting
ahead of the problem and the national media blitz helped educate
people early on in preventing and eradicating bedbugs, according to
Cindy Joyner, head of Neighborhood Code.
"We were actually very, very fortunate," Joyner said.
Bedbugs have been around since humans were created and were
probably brought to North America by the Europeans, according to
Marc Lame, entomology professor at Indiana University and one of
the few experts on bedbugs in the state.
'Bad for business'
Transported by humans, bedbugs were all but eradicated with
pesticides by the 1980s, Lame said.
But with international travel increasing through the 1990s, there
has been a resurgence of the bugs, much to the chagrin of many
communities, Lame said.
"In general, communities don't want to talk about bedbugs," he
said. "Down here in Bloomington, it's something they see, but if
they bring it out in the open too much, it's bad for
Despite the low reports of the bug to Fort Wayne officials, there
have been some other cases with at least one other agency.
The Fort Wayne Housing Authority, which provides low-income
housing, received 65 complaints about bedbugs from 2009 to 2011.
Nineteen of those complaints turned out to be cases in which the
housing authority had to intervene to take care of the
"Bedbugs are actually a recurring nuisance," said Maynard Scales,
executive director of the housing authority.
According to Scales, the housing authority pays for treating an
apartment for bedbugs the first time.
That means hiring an exterminator, whose price will vary depending
on how widespread the infestation is and where the bedbugs are
Scales also said the housing authority makes sure all apartments
are free of pests before residents move in.
Residents are also given an extensive checklist on how to handle
bedbugs should they be found: mainly that heat kills them and that
anything found with bedbugs should be washed extensively.
If bedbugs are found repeatedly in the same apartment, the
residents of that apartment might not have their lease renewed,
"There is some responsibility on their part," he said.
Stemming the tide
According to Joyner, the lack of bedbugs found in Fort Wayne was
due to an aggressive approach from Neighborhood Code, the Fort
Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and the Fort Wayne
Meetings were conducted to educate managers and residents, to tell
them to be wary of bedbugs and what they should do if they
encounter the insect.
"Because of how hard Chicago, New York, Indianapolis and Detroit
were hit, we wanted to be proactive as possible," said Beth Wyatt,
the executive director of the Fort Wayne Apartment Association.
"Hopefully, having taken all these steps, we stemmed the tide
compared to other areas."
The media blitz - with reports of bedbugs in nearly every newspaper
and on every television station across the nation - may have also
"The media did a great job at educating the public," Joyner
"They knew it wasn't just an apartment owner's issue, but the
tenant also had a responsibility. It had to be an active
Apartment complexes that did have bedbug problems in recent years
were quick to react and cooperated with city officials, according
Managers for one complex, East Central Towers in the 900 block of
East Washington Boulevard, dropped off exterminator reports to city
officials weekly in 2010 and early 2011 after bedbugs infested
several apartments, according to city records.
Owners of other apartments on Shady Brook Drive and Fairfield
Avenue cleaned up problems after being cited and before fines were
issued, according to city records.
"For the most part, apartment owners were very aggressive and took
action," Joyner said.
And squashing any problem early on is the only way to adequately
fight bedbugs, said Lame, the IU professor.
He called the bugs "human hitchhikers" and said that if the problem
isn't dealt with effectively, any infestation will only get
"For communities, the best thing they can do is create awareness,"
Lame said. "They won't go away by themselves."