2010.09.22 "Summer of Bedbugs" is a good time to stay home

Written by David Green.

“Summer of Bedbugs” good time to stay home 

By RICH FOLEY

I’ve been dealing with some issues with my back for about six weeks now. As a result, I haven’t done much traveling, or getting out at all, except for work, during that time.

Normally, I would be a bit depressed about that, especially since I hadn’t yet taken a vacation this year and the window for warm, sunny days is slamming shut. But after seeing several television reports and reading a few newspaper stories, at least I can be thankful that I haven’t put myself at risk for encountering the dreaded bedbug.

Yes, bedbugs are not just a parental warning at bedtime anymore. This is starting to look like it’s a good year to be a shut-in. What’s even worse, it appears that Michigan and Ohio are two of the hot spots for infestations of the dreaded insects. And not only that, they are now showing up in places with no beds in sight.

Bedbugs used to be a problem confined to motels, apartment complexes and homes. But a New York Times article quotes pest control companies that have found them in “office buildings, movie theaters, clothing stores, food plants, factories and even airplanes.” That kind of cuts down on safe options to avoid the bugs, doesn’t it?

And how about airplanes being on the list? Wouldn’t you just love to be flying somewhere and discover bedbugs? It’s not like they can stop the plane like a taxi and let you off. How scary would the rest of that flight be? In fact, that gives me an idea for a movie: “Bedbugs on a Plane.” What do you think? Of course, since movie theaters are also on the list, who’s going to be brave enough to go see it? Maybe I’ll have to take it straight to video.

I’m not trying to scare you from leaving home, but according to the Times article, bedbugs could turn up anywhere. Abercrombie & Fitch had to close two stores in New York City in July for several days to deal with infestations, including disposing of an undisclosed amount of merchandise.

A San Francisco hotel estimates that dealing with bedbugs costs an extra $2,500 per incident. Their procedure includes removing the infested room and adjacent rooms from service, destroying their mattresses and cleaning and chemically treating the rooms.

In addition, the hotel has an employee called a “bedbug technician” whose job consists of going from room to room looking for bedbugs. As an extra precaution, the hotel offers a bounty of $10 paid to any employee who finds one.

The Orkin pest control company reports that their commercial business has tripled since 2008. Doing even better is the bedbug-sniffing beagle business. Yes, I said bedbug-sniffing beagles.

It seems the breed is the most popular to train for finding hidden bedbugs, and is the most effective detection technique. It costs about $250 for a dog to check out a 1,200 square foot store, up to $10,000 for a million square foot department store. Quarterly inspections are recommended.

The Times article tells about a woman who lost her job at Verizon and decided to enter the bedbug detection business. She bought a trained beagle and made back his cost in only three months, doing from one to three inspections per week.

Eliminating an infestation includes charges for killing the bugs, placing all the contents of the space into a heat chamber to kill any other bedbugs, plus spraying additional pesticide into the rooms before returning the contents.

Some lawyers are now starting to advertise themselves as specialists in bedbug litigation. A common target is rental companies, as many clients claim that rented furniture contained the bugs. Another lawyer has consulted on cases involving hotels, movie theaters, nursing homes and cruise ships. Cruise ships? I feel another movie idea coming on... 

Even though I’ve been feeling a lot better lately, after reading and watching all these bedbug stories, I’m not in any hurry to go on a plane, ship, or even to a hotel. But I’ve got another idea. Since I’ve learned that bedbugs die at 120 degrees, how about starting a resort inside a dome kept at, say, a constant 125 degrees? A little sweltering, for sure, but at least it would be bedbug free. On second thought, maybe I’ll just stay home a while longer.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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