Bed Bugs Prove To Be Persistent Nuisance

MauiNews.com
Monday, February 20, 2012

Representatives of a Kaanapali oceanside restaurant said that their establishment continues to address a bedbug problem that first surfaced last summer.

Leilani's on the Beach officials said bedbugs were found in a "localized area of the restaurant" in July 2011. A pest control company was contacted, and the furniture treated.

Follow-up inspections showed that the restaurant was clean, until Jan. 4 when a specially trained dog used by the Health Department found a couple of chairs with bedbugs. The area was immediately treated, said the restaurant's vice president.

"Like many public places where travelers frequent, Leilani's on the Beach became the victim of bedbugs last year. . . . We believe we have successfully addressed the problem over the last six months and are continuing to work with Hawaii's leading pest control company to monitor and ensure there are no future events," said Richard Moon, vice president of T S Restaurants of Hawaii, in a written statement. Leilani's is one of several restaurants in the islands under the T S umbrella.

During a Feb. 1 inspection, the specialized dog detected a scent in two chairs, but no bugs were discovered. Still, the chairs were treated as a precaution, restaurant officials said.

Although the state Department of Health said that it was not aware of any other current cases of bedbugs at food establishments, a leader in the pest management industry said that infestations do occur.

"This is not an isolated incident," said Michael Botha, president of Sandwich Isle Pest Solutions, which is assisting with the bedbug eradication at Leilani's.

He said that anywhere the public is, there is a chance of bedbug infestations.

"Getting bedbugs used to have a negative social stigma; that's not the case anymore," he added.

Bedbugs, which as adults may be as large as a flattened apple seed, have been found in ritzy hotel suites that cost $800 a night and are found in things and places frequented by the "most affluent travelers," said Botha, who is an original member of the National Pest Management Association's blue ribbon bedbug task force and part of the association's bedbug division steering committee.

He said the bugs don't jump, fly or crawl very fast. They mostly hitch rides on humans.

In the case of Leilani's, Botha said the January infestation came from a new host - not because the restaurant was derelict. In fact, Botha, who resides on Oahu, added that when on Maui he eats at a T S restaurant, because he knows they are "proactive" in trying to prevent bedbugs.

The Health Department went out to Leilani's in January and in February after a complaint was made in January, said Reef Nakashima, a DOH vector control inspector.

Nakashima said he was told that the bedbugs were found only on chairs on the restaurant's bottom-floor lanai. He added that the restaurant showed sufficient proof that it had been addressing the problem. Restaurant officials presented documentation of past work orders from several different pest control companies.

DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said that bedbugs do not carry or spread diseases. They are nuisances because they can bite.

The restaurant is in the process of replacing all of the chairs in the area where the bugs were found, Moon said in his statement.

Botha said that during his company's initial work at Leilani's there was a "very low-level infestation" in which there were maybe one to a few bedbugs that were brought in by one person.

"They just got off at the wrong place," he said.

Botha said the chairs were treated with special gas that has three times the potency of gas used for fumigating a home for termites.