Bedbugs are here, but help is at hand
The Register-Guard (OR)
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Don't be alarmed, but bedbugs are here
in Lane County.
No government agency or industry
source keeps count of the number of infestations, but there are
reports from all around the county of the blood-sucking
A Lane County health inspector found
the bugs at a motel at the coast. A St. Vincent de Paul employee
found some on a donated hide-a-bed in a thrift store drive-thru. A
pest management company reports finding bugs on rented furniture in
three separate instances. A Eugene man got a stubborn infestation
after taking home a mattress he found in an alley. And two
affordable housing apartments saw infestations.
The age-old pest, which had been all
but eradicated in this country in the 1940s, has made a resurgence
in the past decade and scientists can't say exactly why.
Heavy infestations have been reported
in New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland. Travel is dispersing the
bugs, because they're adept at hitching rides on luggage and
Now, every state in the country is
reporting their presence.
A survey of 7,000 members of the
National Pest Management Association found 95 percent had treated
bedbugs, up from 25 percent in 2000.
"It's pretty much an everyday thing
anymore," said Mike Mulloy, Eugene branch manager for Sprague Pest
The bedbugs go wherever people do -
and not just to places with lax housekeeping. Niketown in
Manhattan, for instance, was closed for four days in September
because of a bedbug infestation.
"They've been on trains, busses. Just
before Christmas, we had a guy who had them in the cab of his
pickup truck," Mulloy said. "We're getting more and more office
State and Multnomah County officials
formed a task force four months ago to figure out how prevalent the
bugs are in Oregon. Its goal is to publish recommendations in the
next two years for county health departments for handling
infestations, said Eric Pippert, section manager in the Oregon
Office of Environmental Health.
Here's why you shouldn't panic: The
biggest danger with bedbug infestations, so far, arises when
homeowners panic and misapply pesticides - or hire unqualified pest
contractors - that make them sick, public health officials say.
"People will do anything to get rid of
bedbugs," said Missy Henriksen, spokeswoman for the National Pest
Nationally, people have been sickened
by dousing themselves, their hair, their bedding, their mattress
and their children with insecticide, according to the Oregon State
University-based National Pesticide Information Center.
At least four times in the past year
Oregonians reported they've been sickened by pesticides used to
kill bedbugs, said Paul Khokhar, coordinator of the Oregon
Pesticide Analytical Response Center. In one case, a Marion County
man said his children got rashes after his house was treated for
bedbugs a dozen times between June 2010 and February 2011.
The symptoms have included headaches,
nausea, sore throats and tightness in the chest, Khokhar said, "It
could possibly be dangerous to them."
In some instances, sickness has
followed treatment by a pesticide company, according to the
National Pesticide Information Center.
"There have been cases throughout the
country of pest control companies that were misapplying pesticides
in people's homes when they were treating for bedbugs," said the
center's pesticide specialist Bryan Harper.
The bedbugs themselves, while creepy,
are considered fairly benign, Pippert said. The exception is for
people with allergies who may have severe reactions to bites.
Bedbugs carry some diseases, but they
don't share them with their human hosts, Pippert said.
"It's not the biggest public health
problem. It's arguable whether it is a public health problem," he
said. "They've been around a long time and its not been shown that
they transmit disease."
The first thing needed to eradicate
bedbugs is patience, Khokhar said.
Homeowners who try to get rid of
bedbugs often inadvertently scatter the infestation, government and
industry experts say.
Foggers, for instance, don't kill the
bugs but chase them into the walls, where they scamper along
electric wires or water pipes to adjacent rooms.
"All you're doing is getting chemical
all over the place," said Dave Ottovich, owner of "Ask the Bug Man"
Pest Management Services in Eugene.
It's important for home owners to vet
pest management companies before hiring them, Ottovich said.
Although there are just over a dozen such companies based in Lane
County, as many as 40 send crews to work in the county.
"Do your research on companies. Get
three or more estimates. Get references," Ottovich said.
Also check the Better Business Bureau
for complaints. Homeowners who are uneasy about using chemicals can
seek out a company that primarily uses heat and other mechanical
control techniques. Insecticides with low toxicity also are
The Corvallis-based National Pesticide
Information Center offers free telephone consultations.
The center's job is to provide
nonbiased, scientific information about pesticides in everyday
terms, Harper said.
If a homeowner calls with the name of
an insecticide a pest company proposes to use, the center will walk
them through the health and environmental risks associated with the
chemical - and give them tips about how to minimize exposure to
children and pets.
Don't despair, Henriksen said.
Homeowners can rid themselves of bedbugs,
"A variety of treatment methods are
very effective," she said. "Properly applied pesticides that are
right for the right strain, heat (treatments), freezing and steam
"Sometimes it will take a combination
of methods to get rid of bedbugs. Very often it will take more than
one treatment to fully eliminate bedbugs."
BED BUG INFORMATION
Pesticide Information Center: http://npic.orst.edu/
Management Association: pestworld.org/bed-bugs