Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Big bad bed bugs beckon

by Alecia Warren
| November 13, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - If you thought the blood suckers didn't come out at night in North Idaho, you were wrong.

Pest control services in Kootenai County are calling out the same trend making folks shiver across the nation: A rise in bed bug infestations.

"It's kind of a crazy deal," said Jacob Borg with Pointe Pest Control in Coeur d'Alene.

His company fields complaints of the blood-loving critters every couple of weeks, he said, whereas five to 10 years ago, he only got one or two of those calls a year.

"Bed bugs are a serious deal," he said.

In Craig Pearsall's first 18 years in the pest control industry, he treated a total of three bed bug infestations, he said.

Now over the last few years, Senske Pest Control, where he is supervisor, has been inundated with calls from residences and apartment complexes.

"They (bed bugs) are definitely out there," said Pearsall, whose company has branches in Coeur d'Alene and Spokane.

Lenard Allen, owner of Allen Pest Control in Coeur d'Alene, said the monthly bed bug complaints are on a significant rise, considering those problems were exceedingly rare a decade or more ago.

"It's common," he said. "It's increased quite a bit."

Each pointed to the same reasons for the uptick.

For one, more people are traveling internationally, returning with little friends clinging to their luggage.

"Bed bugs are hitchhikers," Pearsall said. "That's why high-end hotels are having major problems."

Also to blame, Allen said, is the stepped-up regulation of pest control products, which he believes weeded out the best methods for rubbing these guys out.

"I predicted 20 years ago that we were going to have a problem, because they were taking some of the good insecticides away from us," Allen said.

Now they must face the reality: These suckers are tough to get rid of.

Like, really tough.

Allen usually has to hit a place three times for an effective bed bug purge.

"These bed bugs can live for a year without feeding," he explained. "It's hard to get their eggs because they're in hiding places."

Sized similar to a lady bug but without the cute, bed bugs feed on people's blood at night. They spend daylight hours stowed away in cracks in the walls, in mattresses and even behind hung pictures.

Confirming the problem is easy - blood spots on their mattress, especially on the ribbing.

Pest controllers have an arsenal for wiping out the vermin, like heat units and sprays.

Treatments can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

That's where the other fun part of the equation comes in, Pearsall said.

"What's happening is it's an economic issue, because a lot of the clients who have bed bugs are not able to afford the treatments," he said.

He advises cash-strapped victims to run all their clothes through a washer and dryer, and try to confine the bed bugs with a mattress cover.

But if people can't control the problem, he painted a lovely picture of a bed bug takeover. Children toting bugs in their backpacks and lunch boxes, with the vermin crawling out into schools, movie theaters and "everywhere you can think of," he said.

Oh no!

"Oh, yes," he said. "It's the tip of the iceberg, at this point."