Don’t Let Them Bite - Bed Bugs Becoming Big Problem Locally

Cumberland Times-News
Sunday, October 9, 2011

CUMBERLAND - Bedbugs are becoming a problem all over the East Coast and Cumberland is no exception.

"Bedbugs cases have increased at least 10-fold since last year and especially on the East Coast," said Dave McMullan, district manager of Ehrlich Pest Control in Cumberland.

But thanks to preventative measures and pest control they can easily be controlled. Because of the rise in bed bug cases, six housing authorities in the area have banded together to prevent and exterminate bedbugs, according to Steve Kesner, executive director of the Cumberland Housing Authority.

"We did a complete inspection of our two high-rise buildings and did find a minor case of bedbugs in one of the buildings and they were exterminated," said Kesner. "We were told there were some bedbugs cases in hotels but weren't told which ones."

In order to combat the bugs, The housing authority brings in an exterminator every month and a bed bug sniffing dog every six months into both Queen City Towers and John F. Kennedy Apartments, according to Kesner.

"This is a rapidly growing problem, which we thought we would become proactive about and get out in front of it by performing thorough investigations of our buildings and educating our residents on how not to bring them into their living areas," said Kesner.

Once Ehrlich gets a call about a bedbug infestation, the company performs three separate inspections seven to 14 days apart, according to McMullan. Inspections can be completed visibly by a human or by smell using a canine.

"Human inspections are 30 to 40 percent reliable and canine inspections area about 90 to 95 percent reliable," said McMullan.

The bed bug sniffing canines, which are trained and certified by the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association (NESDCA) are brought into the room and scratch the area where they detect live bugs or viable eggs, according to McMullan.

Bedbugs can be eliminated through several different treatments: a conventional treatment, utilizing insecticide; a heat treatment, utilizing electricity and propane; and a encasement treatment, utilizing doubly sealed plastic mattress and box spring covers, according to McMullan. With the heat treatment, a room is heated to 140 to 150 degrees, which typically eliminates the bugs in a day. It is considered the most effective treatment.

"The heat treatment is a big process. It is more then just bring in heaters and heating up a room," said McMullan.

The heat treatment also requires constant wireless temperature monitoring.

With the conventional treatment, insecticides are never used on mattresses, instead a fabric sterilize is used, according to McMullan. Through the encasement treatment the covers are left on forever and the bedbugs eventually die.

Kesner said anyone could pick up bedbugs from almost anywhere and he reminds residents to be mindful of stuff they bring in from yard sales, furniture and clothing and luggage used while travelling.

"Bedbugs can affect pretty much any economic status. People who travel a lot have a greater chance of getting bedbugs," said McMullan.  

McMullan suggests taking a flashlight and inspecting hotel rooms for the bugs before brining in any luggage.

"Never lay anything on the bed and keep everything away from the bed," said McMullan.

In addition to being seen with the naked eve, bedbugs can be detected by small blood spots on bed sheets, fecal pellets and by a distinctive sweet and sickly smell, according to the Ehrlich website.