Bedbug numbers creep up

The Wichita Eagle
Friday, June 3, 2011

Bedbugs might not be a topic for polite conversation, but the resurgence is growing in Wichita, said local pest control companies.

"We've seen more bedbugs in the last year than we've seen in the other 38 years put together," said Cindy Betts, office manager for Betts Pest Control.

As kids return from college and families return from vacation, she expects more calls about those tiny black specks on the mattress.

The tiny bloodsucking insect gets into any kind of fabric: beds, clothes, couches, chairs, rugs, luggage, even in insulated spaces behind walls. They can live for a year without eating. And, at night, they come out looking for human hosts.

According to a survey sponsored by the National Pest Management Association, 95 percent of U.S. pest management companies surveyed indicated they had encountered a bedbug infestation in the past year.

It's not a big part of Betts' business, yet. She estimated about half of the company's business is devoted to controlling termites and the other half to killing a variety of spiders and insects, including bedbugs.

But bedbugs is the fastest-growing segment, she said.

Wichita is seeing more bedbugs, but it's not as bad as the worst affected places on the coasts, said Bill Hawks Jr., president of Hawks Interstate PestMasters.

"We are not seeing anywhere near the activity," he said. "Where you have to be alert is when somebody returns from mission work, or coming back from seeing shows in New York or from Las Vegas."

Once bedbugs are in the house or office, they can be very hard to get rid of, Hawks said. It can take a crew of two or three between one and four hours to treat a house, he said.

They're tiny, hard to find, and any left alive will cause a reinfestation, he said.

"It's 100 percent or nothing, because whatever you leave comes back," he said.

Betts and Hawks said that because bedbugs are so hard to eradicate, homeowners or hotel owners must act quickly or they will spread.

Betts said she has treated a couple of hotels, but mostly what she gets is inquiries from hotels about the best way to do it. She guesses that means the hotel staff will try to do it themselves.

"That worries me," she said.