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.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Front.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • 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.

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