Bed Bugs Don't Bite Sioux Falls
Thursday, May 10, 2012

South Dakota hasn't faced bed bug problems anywhere near the levels seen elsewhere, and being proactive is the key to keeping it that way, Sioux Falls officials said Thursday.

The city averages 20 to 24 calls annually concerning bed bug complaints at rental properties, and it's important to deal with infestations or possible cases of bed bugs sooner rather than later, said Kevin Smith, assistant director of planning and building services.

"If you're aware of it and can look for it and treat it before it gets out of control, I don't see it getting out of control," Smith said.

The city typically does not get involved with bed bug cases in private homes, hotels or motels, Smith said. It's also difficult to gauge how big of a problem it is because extensive records are not kept at state or local levels.

The Sioux Falls Health Department and Planning and Building Services held a news conference Thursday to increase public awareness and educate the public on how to detect and mitigate bed bugs.

Trisha Swenson, president of the South Dakota Multi-Housing Association and Buyung Hadi, pesticide educator and urban entomology Extension coordinator at South Dakota State University, also provided information. Bed bugs do not spread disease, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has attributed increased cases in part to lack of public awareness, said Alicia Collura, assistant director of public health.

Hadi said there's been an increase in the number of bed bugs being sent to Brookings for identification, with four or five so far this year. That's up from about three bed bugs a year in 2008, he said.

"South Dakota, in my opinion, we have a minimal problem compared to other larger communities and states," Swenson said of the rental property community.

She said detection, identification and early communication with property managers, owners and landlords are key. Often, chemicals used by professional pest control companies are needed to get rid of bed bugs, said Denise Patton, health program coordinator for public health. It's also crucial after finding bed bugs that tenants and homeowners take care of their belongings and keep things clean and uncluttered, Patton said, and suggested vacuuming and washing bedding.

Traveling can sometimes bring bed bugs into a community, so it's important to check bedding at hotels and store luggage off the ground, Hadi said. Collura also advised people to be aware of the risk for bed bugs when buying secondhand.

LuAnn Ford, public health manger, said the city conducts routine lodging inspections annually and also investigates within 48 hours of every complaint received. Last year, there were 24 lodging complaints, 17 regarding bed bugs, and eight of those were substantiated, Ford said. In 2010, there were 24 complaints, 12 regarding bed bugs and eight were substantiated.

"Establishments are generally aware before we get there and have already begun the treatment process," shes aid. "Operators here in Sioux Falls are very responsive; they don't want bed bugs either."

Kathy Elledge, a front desk clerk at Rushmore Inn on East 10th Street, said the motel began taking preventative measures against bed bugs about a year ago, after hearing about major infestations across the country, in places like New York City.

Elledge said Rushmore Inn wraps all of the mattresses so they're sealed and the bugs have nowhere to stay, and they use chemicals and powder to prevent bed bugs.

Patton said bed bugs - which grow to the size of an apple seed - and their eggs - which look like a grain of salt - are hard to detect. Bed bugs live off of the protein found in blood and feed off of warm-blooded animals, Patton said. Bites tend to be in clusters or streaks because bed bugs live in larger groups, but a doctor can't definitively say bites are from bed bugs because there are a lot of insects that bite, she said.