Bedbugs are sporadic pests

March 28, 2019

As worldwide travel becomes more prevalent, recent years have seen an increase in bedbug infestations throughout the upper Midwest.

So pervasive are the pests, many cities have websites dedicated to alerting people as to where the bugs have been found. Among the sites covering the Milwaukee area is BedBugReports.com and as of Tuesday, hotels such as the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, Ramada Milwaukee Center, Country Inn & Suites by Carlson Milwaukee Airport and La Quinta Inn & Suites Milwaukee-Glendale/Bayshore all had listings.

The Watertown Department of Public Health is vigilant when it comes to monitoring bedbugs in the city. Landlords have said the pests are an ongoing problem here and the Watertown Police Department blotter recently showed complaints of them at a rental property near downtown. The Daily Times also met with a landlord who was battling the bugs at a home he rents here.

“We have had bedbugs in the area for several years. It is sporadic and has occurred in different environments,” Watertown Department of Public Health Officer and Director Carol Quest told the Daily Times. “We follow-up on bedbug complaints with facilities that we license, such as hotels, motels, tourist rooming houses and facilities like that. If we have calls regarding bedbugs in a private residence, we provide guidance. We provide guidance to any individual or organization that calls our department regarding bedbugs. Bedbugs require dedication to eliminate in an environment.”

According to WebMD, bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

“Bedbugs do not fly,” said WebMD, “but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime ... Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.”

Bedbugs hide in everything imaginable and can be acquired anywhere a person goes in public, including restaurants and public transit. Hotels, however, are famous environments for them and many people who have suffered the bugs in the past tell friends to never set luggage on hotel room beds and to inspect the premises before fully settling in. Purchasing used furniture can also be a dangerous prospect.

Experts say the best way to deal with bedbugs is to hire a professional exterminator who will treat the situation over the course of weeks and perhaps months, to ensure the insects are gone. Infected items, such as mattresses and box springs, pillows, furniture and other items should be thrown away.

Quest has been with the city’s health department for two decades and said she has dealt with bedbugs here on occasion for much of her tenure.

“Bedbugs are most often found in areas where people live and sleep,” Quest said. “Homes, apartments and hotel rooms are common locations in which bedbugs are found. Often they are found within 8 to 10 feet of a bed. They are experts at hiding and staying hidden. The cracks and crevices of head boards, mattresses, box springs and night stands serve as hiding places for bedbugs. Bedbug infestations are not necessarily the result of poor sanitary conditions. However, eliminating clutter will provide less area for hiding and will make treatment more successful.”

Quest said bedbugs are easily introduced into a home or a residential facility. This introduction is done by bringing luggage, used furniture, clothing or other belongings from an infested area into a home or residential facility.

“Bedbugs can also travel from infested rooms or units in hotels and apartments to other rooms or units for a blood meal and they can survive for a long period of time without (eating),” she said.

In facilities licensed by the city, Quest’s staff follows up on complaints of bedbugs.

“We follow-up on all complaints at licensed facilities with an inspection if evidence of bedbugs is found,” she said. “The owner/operator of the facility is required to complete treatment of the space where the evidence is found.”

The city will also offer advice to people in private residences who are experiencing an infestation. The city typically provides information from the websites https://datcp.wi.gov/Documents/BedBugsWI.pdf, https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/.

Quest offered some advice to both businesses and residents if they experience the bugs.

“Bedbugs are difficult pests to eliminate. Public awareness is an important part of controlling this insect,” she said. “It is recommended that you use a professional pest control company to control an infestation. Professional pest control companies use a combination of treatment techniques to control the insects.”

Quest said treatment can be effective if done properly and promptly.

“If you stay at a hotel and you find bedbugs, tell the hotel manager,” Quest said. “If you find bedbugs in your apartment, tell your landlord.”

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