Attention must be paid

Any time the media uses “bed bugs,” they mostly are followed by how they are in your neighborhood, backyard, attic, couch, bed - inspiring a few different reactions. One of vapid panic which keeps people awake feeling little twitches all over. One...

  • They can lay anywhere from one to seven eggs a day. 
  • While the bug tends to mainly stay within eight feet of where people sleep, they can travel up to 100 feet in a single night.
  • Although they may be able to have diseases in their body, according to the CDC bed bugs cannot transmit diseases says Skinner.
  • They are attracted to the carbon dioxide humans naturally release. Using this they can be baited to other targets, such as dry ice, as a form of pest control. While effective when used in conjunction with bed bug climb up interceptors, this isn't too practical for the correctional enviornment.
  • Bites from a bed bug are commonly referred to a “breakfast, lunch and dinner” pattern in the pest control industry; this name is more descriptive than telling. The term describes three marks in a row and may be simply caused by the victim moving.
  • Their bite injects saliva which acts as an anti-coagulant and anesthetic.
  • Some people have severe physical reactions to a bite (rashes, flea/mosquito bite-like bumps, etc.) while some have no reaction at all and a reaction can take up to 14 days to appear.

Once people know what to look for, they then have to know where to start searching. With the distance the bugs can travel it can be difficult to track down and pin point where they are hiding.

Compare this search for the investigation of drugs - sometimes the easiest way is to call for help.

"Most jails are not going to afford a pest control company to come in and treat an entire facility," says Merchant. "The question then becomes how do you know if a room, an office, an empty spot or car has bed bugs ... some people are going with a bed bug sniffing dogs."

While the pest control industry hasn't required certification, in its best practices document the National Pest Management Association has stated bug sniffing canines "should be" certified. NESDCA is involved with certifying of the canine in regards to pest control.

Taking a cue from law enforcement, the tactics in imprinting and training the pest control dog were copied on how to imprint narcotics - with a slight twist. While the narcotic K9 officer might be able to find several types of drugs, pest control teams are searching for a single type of bug.

In one incident, Skinner had gone to one location where the owner was claiming being bitten by bed bugs. After a 30-minute search, he found nothing. He then called a bed bug-sniffing team who found the bugs within 10 minutes.

Manually searching can be labor intensive and, depending on the size of the location, may take hours which increases the cost. "It's a lot faster and becomes cheaper because you can cover a lot more ground, can do a lot more inspections faster and be a lot more accurate," says Skinner.

When a canine bed bug team aren't available, a few helpful tools can help the search be that much more effective.

"One of the thigns that all facilities should be using are vacuums with HEPA filters," says Bryan. These types of filters are fine enough to trap the bed bug egg and adults. He explains that vacuums have to use HEPA filters because regular vacuum can spread the bugs through the exhaust.

He also adds that vacuumming is not the cure to this epidemic. "If anybody suggests to you that there is some magic bullet, it just doesn't exist," says Bryan.

A few basic tools that can help an officer conduct the search for bed bugs include:

  • A good flashlight
  • A magnifying glass
  • A standard screwdriver
  • A strong thin object, like a credit card, to stick into and manipulate cracks and crevices
  • A small handheld mirror, like a dental mirror

Searches can include:

Beds, couches and chairs - remove sheets and pillowcases and inspect the mattress, parts around the mattress. Officers should look for black or blood-colored spotting. Experts suggest using lighter-colored fabrics to make this easier. It is recommended to wash the removed sheets and pillowcases and store them in a sealed container, like plastic bags to avoid re-infestation. The mattress should be washed with soap and water.

"There are so many places on a mattress a bed bug can hide," says Merchant. He suggests looking at buttons, welting, folds in the fabric, any place that's got a little crevice for them to squeeze into.

The walls - look into any cracks and crevices, any place that is "safe" and dark. Open any electrical plates and sockets and look in the walls for eggs, shells or bed bug feces.

In her experience in her fire department, Sheaks feels that nobody thinks they are going to get bed bugs, but once they find out the bugs are all over their jurisdiction they are grateful directives were set in place to take care of the problem.

"We have a directive that our bunk room in the fire horse has to be cleaned every Monday," she says. Adding that people have to stay on it, "once a week isn't anything, not when it comes down to when you actually get them and the cost that's going to involved in getting rid of them."

And getting rid of them can be complicated.

Once found, Sheaks advises to call a professional pest control/pesticide company. While there are commerically available products, many departments and facilities have a regulation requiring a commerical applicator license to spray such chemcials.

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