Bed bugs finding homes in Blaine County
Idaho Mountain Express
Friday, April 8, 2011
Express Staff Writer
Not one of the dozen pest exterminators in the phone book list
"bed bugs" in its repertoire. Ants, spiders, mice, rats and
earwigs, but not bed bugs.
That could soon change as an increasing number of Blaine County
residents learn firsthand the meaning of the age-old adage, "Good
night-don't let the bed bugs bite."
The calls are pouring in for Todd Nelson, division manager of
Bedbug Thermal Solutions in Hailey. He said the company-operating
in Nevada, Utah and Western Wyoming-opened a branch here six months
ago after noticing the need.
"I get a couple calls a day now," Nelson said. "I'm sitting in
the van heating up an infested house as we speak."
Thermal Solutions uses 125-pound heaters to raise the
temperature of an infested building to about 130 degrees to kill
"At 115, they come looking for the meal," he said. "At 120, they
start dying out."
He said the process costs a minimum $1,000 and takes about nine
hours from setup to tear-down. Such unusual practices are needed
because bed bugs have grown resistant to "almost all pesticides"
made to treat them, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Instead, exterminators manually vacuum the
bugs and eggs or use heat.
The CDC reports that bed bugs were nearly eradicated in
industrialized countries such as the United States up until a few
years ago. The first American reports of the resurgence came from
the East Coast. Bed bugs infested more than a dozen New York City
schools and part of the Empire State Building.
The National Pest Management Association, whose members make up
many pest exterminators across the country, surveyed 1,000
companies last spring and found that 95 percent encountered bed bug
infestations in the past year.
"It remains a mystery why we're seeing such an abrupt increase
after years of scarce encounters," the report reads.
The association also surveyed adults across the country in
November and said one in five Americans has had a bed bug
infestation or knows someone who has encountered bed bugs.
"It was only a matter of time until they came here," said
Nelson, attributing the bugs' arrival to the number of visitors
flowing in and out of the Wood River Valley. "We're going to get
them worse than we have them now."
He's not the only one seeing more bed bug business.
"I'm doing one right now," said Joe Pearson, owner of Wood River
Pest Management, who uses vacuuming, steam heat and chemicals.
He's been in business here for 15 years and said he used to see
a couple of cases of bed bugs per year. That's turned into two a
Cindy Day has owned Cook Pest Control in Twin Falls for 10
years. She said she used to treat one bed bug infestation a month.
That has turned into several a week. She travels to Jerome,
Kimberly, Buhl and the Wood River Valley for exterminations.
"Pretty much anywhere in the area you can name, we've been
there," she said.
She said much of the difficulty in stopping the spread is the
stigma surrounding bed bugs, similar to that of lice. She admits
that when people call her claiming they have a bed bug infestation,
her "skin crawls." However, it's not a reflection on the
"It doesn't matter if the person is rich or poor, clean or
dirty," she said. "You just have to be in the right place at the
Education is best combatant
The CDC reports hotels as the most common place to pick up bed
bugs, but they've infested movie theaters, a Victoria's Secret
store, offices such as Google in New York City, buses, trains and
more. Itchy blisters resulting from bites is the most common way
that people realize they have bed bugs. That's because the bugs
hide during the day in the folds of mattresses and any cracks they
"They're very cryptic insects," Pearson said.
They feed for only five to 10 minutes, doing so every 10 days or
so as they mature through five stages to adulthood, growing from
the size of a poppy seed to an apple seed.
"I've worked for people who've had bed bugs for years and never
did anything about it," he said.
For some people, the problem seems to go away. However, the bugs
never leave. They just feed infrequently. He said they call him
after several feeding cycles, realizing they're helpless. By then,
the infestation is "out of control."
He also advocated education as the key, as exterminators are
losing the battle. People should check hotel room mattresses and,
when arriving home, shouldn't throw luggage on the bed but wash
The good news is that bed bugs, unlike many public health pests,
don't transmit diseases.
To ascertain if you have an infestation, either search the
cracks of your mattress for the bugs or look for the
excrement-pinhead-sized black dots found in clusters-that bed bugs
leave behind after feeding.
"They defecate after they feed so they can shrink down and fit
back into their cracks," Pearson said. "They also shed their skins
between their five stages of growth."
Bed bugs will feast on any warm-blooded animal, so pets are also
Trevon Milliard: firstname.lastname@example.org