The stains are the dried excrement produced from digesting human blood.
Taylor said the real damage an infestation does is to people’s nerves. “It’s mentally a strain. The nerves get all tore up.”
When treating homes for bed bugs, Taylor wears a hazmat suit that he throws away afterward.
“The main thing is to keep people out after we apply chemicals,” he said. “At least six hours, but I’d say 24 to be certain.”
In addition to chemicals, there’s a new weapon in the fight to eradicate bed bugs — dogs.
A home infested with bed bugs smells like over-ripe raspberries. Dogs already work hard sniffing out drugs and bombs and people trapped in rubble after disasters.
Turns out, man’s best friend can be trained to detect bed bugs, even one tiny egg hidden for training purposes.
Twix, a beagle/basset mix, was probably about 2 years old when a trainer from one of the companies Orkin uses, K9 Operations in Romulus, Mich., got her from a rescue shelter and sent her to school.
Dave Lucas, who has been with Orkin in Cincinnati since 1997, saw a bulletin in an employee newsletter soliciting in-house for an employee interested in becoming a handler for a bed bug detection dog. Lucas applied, and soon the two were partners.
“We went to school together for three and a half weeks,” Lucas said. “The key was to get us working together as a team.”
Besides areas in Ohio, they go to locations in Indiana and Kentucky from Louisville to Lexington.
Sometimes people call and ask specifically for a dog, and other times the company suggests the service.
Given the confidence in their expertise, customers are nearly always satisfied.
“I’ve had customers cry on me, and we leave some very happy,” Lucas said.
He and Twix arrive and start at the front door, sweeping a property, including laundry areas and closets.
Twix is thorough and fast, usually making a beeline directly to infected areas. Once she has completed her search, Lucas discusses treatment plans, but someone else comes in to do that work.
The longer it takes her to search, the better the chance there are no bed bugs at all in a home.
Does she ever ... lie?
Lucas laughs at the question but says, yes, it could happen.
“They want to please and get a treat and all, which is one of the reasons we train so much, even during off times when I take vials with varying amounts of eggs or bed bugs to places I have permission to go or to a friend’s or family’s house and hide them and then take her in to test her and train her. I know the dog so I can tell from just the way her nose twitches if she’s really getting something.”
“I called her a liar only once,” he said. “She kept insisting, and it was the only thing in the house. We finally took it apart and she was right. I don’t call her a liar anymore.”
Bed bugs are increasingly being encountered in homes, apartments, hotels, motels, health-care facilities, dormitories, shelters, schools and modes of transport, according to Michael F. Potter, an extension entomologist at University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, who wrote a report about the problem.
They also sometimes appear in movie theaters, laundries and dry cleaners, furniture rental outlets and office buildings.
Bed bugs are small — about 1⁄4 inch in size — and brownish-reddish and flatish like ticks.
Al Patel, who has managed the Comfort Suites hotel at 864 Ben Ali Drive in Danville for four years, is proactive in keeping bed bugs from moving in and ruining the reputation of a business that relies on reputation to be a success.
“Every day,” he said. “We inspect every day.”
“We inspect random rooms and check continuously, but the housekeepers all know to inspect every time they change the sheets.”
Patel said he spends more than $6,000 yearly on professional pest control as prevention but that every mattress also is in encasements designed for just such a purpose.
Ginger East, the infection prevention coordinator at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, says the hospital staff also is vigilant.
“We have had no outbreaks of bed bugs in the hospital,” she said.
SO YOU KNOW
An annual ritual of years past called “sunning” may have a place in society once again as people deal with bed bugs.
Pillows, feather beds and comforters were once hauled out into the yard to be “cleaned” by the sun. A few hours later, they were flipped over and then, hours later, placed back inside rooms that had undergone decluttering and scouring.
Integrated pest management is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention¿suggest to get in front of the problem with prevention as opposed to relying solely on a chemical treatment solution.
One suggestion is the use of direct sunlight.
Other CDC recommendations are:
- using monitoring devices,
- removing clutter where bed bugs can hide,
- sealing cracks and crevices to remove hiding places,
- using non-chemical pesticides (such as diatomaceous earth), and
- judicious use of effective chemical pesticides.