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Dont let the bed bugs bite

Bed bugs are becoming an increasingly alarming problem throughout the country


The Oregon State Legislature has declared a state of emergency regarding infestations of Cimex Lectularius in the state.

Bedbugs.

Yes, the subject of the phrase “don’t let the bedbugs bite” has become a very real problem.

On April 2, 2013, Governor Kitzhaber signed House Bill 2131 pertaining to confidentiality of pest control reports regarding bed bugs. It requires certain information pertaining to bed bug infestations to be held confidentially by public health authorities and exempts information from disclosure under the public records law.

The intent behind the bill was that pest-control companies would be more likely to share information with government health agencies if client information would remain confidential.

It essentially keeps the public from being able to ascertain if public housing, hotels, apartment complexes, college dorms, or any other place where bed bugs take up residence has been reported or treated for bed bugs.

Since the mid 1900s, bed bugs were all but a thing of the past, but recently infestations in the U.S. have become something with which Americans, including Oregonians, are once again contending.

Cliff Kiser, Manager of Crook County Vector Control, said that it is believed that these little critters did not come to the U.S. only from impoverished countries.

“I think Europe essentially gave us some gifts,” Kiser said. “It hasn’t been absolutely proven, but that’s what everyone is leaning towards.”

These insects feed on human blood, issuing bites that often itch and are sometimes visible and sometimes not. They are not known to carry diseases.

“Bed bugs have been a topic in vector controls for the last five or six years, and even though it doesn’t concern vector control, it’s a topic that has a lot of interest,” said Kiser.

“You walk into a hotel, and you have no idea whether there is a bed bug infestation or not,” he said. “The crazy thing about all of this is that people associate it with cheap accommodations and that’s not where they got the initial blast at. It was the high-dollar hotels.”

Bed bugs are small, but easily visible with the human eye. They are oval, flat, and may be red or brown in color.

They range in size depending on their life cycle. According to Purdue University in Indiana, the eggs are about 1 millimeter long or about the size of a pinhead, and up to 5.5 millimeters or about the size of an apple seed as adults.

Adult bugs are oval, reddish-brown, and wingless. Their body is very flat, and they possess long, slender legs and antennae. They have a long, segmented proboscis (beak) that extends forward when the bug takes a blood meal. Immature bugs are known either as larvae or nymphs and closely resemble adults, but are smaller and less deeply pigmented.

“It’s almost impossible to see the bugs themselves because they’re very good at hiding, and they generally don’t come out until the lights are off,” Kiser explained.

According to Kiser, bed legs can be placed into cups containing a killing chemical, but it has been observed that the bugs seem to have a sixth-sense about it.

“It has been shown that they will crawl up on the wall, crawl up onto the ceiling and drop onto the bed if that (the chemical) is present,” he said.

There is good news — there are ways to check for bed bugs even if you don’t see the bugs themselves. Their droppings — tiny black spots — are often found behind headboards, on the sheets and mattress seams, behind pictures, or on the walls. Sometimes, it is possible to find their skins that are cast off during each stage of their life cycle.

Taking precautions, such as using the luggage stands or putting your luggage on the table or into the bathtub, helps to keep the creepy crawlers out of your clothing and suitcase.

“If you suspect that you have been exposed to bed bugs or you’re just concerned about it, about all you have to do is wash your clothes in very hot water,” Kiser said.

When it is not possible to wash clothing immediately, it is wise to put travel bags into the bathtub until the wash can be done.

Dustin Heidtke, owner of Terminix in Prineville, said, “I’ve been the owner of Terminix for 20 years. It (bed bugs) definitely is a current issue in Central Oregon for the lodging industry — hotels, motels, vacation homes, and even private homes have problems with bed bugs. And I’d also say even some of the family shelters and shelters for homeless. Even assisted living homes are getting them.”

“Bed bugs have been slowly increasing for the past eight years. It is an issue here, but it’s been slower to pick up here (Central Oregon) than other parts of the country, but I do believe that’s because we don’t have a large hub like LAX.”

“The eggs are an off-white, clear transparent color and a lot of folks think that it’s so small it’s got to be a piece of lint or something,” Heidtke said.

Should there be an infestation discovered inside a home, the matter becomes much more serious and requires professional help.

“Bed bugs are one of the more difficult pests to get rid of due to the size and the areas where they hideout,” Heidtke said.

He normally makes three treatments for an infestation within the first 30 days.

“There’s a variety of methods. One is using a heat system where you put heat in the room for at least eight hours,” he said.

This treatment is not common for smaller pest control companies due to the cost of the equipment, but it does kill the bed bugs and their eggs.

Steaming is another heat method sometimes used.

“We use a method called rapid freeze. It’s a non-toxic solution,” he said. “We also employ covers over the mattresses. This helps to eliminate any place where there are cracks and crevices. It also helps to trap the bed bugs in the area where you’ve treated.”

Chemical products may also be used, depending upon the circumstances of the infestation, but most people don’t want chemicals on their beds.

According to Purdue University, all treatment is time-consuming and expensive. There is no pest management company that can work a miracle overnight.

Heidtke said, “They (bed bugs) really don’t discriminate who you are -- if you’re there, they want to be there, too.”




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