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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Hitchhiking Blood Suckers

Bloodsuckers. Bed bugs are bloodsuckers, and what used to be a problem in New York City is now Evansville’s problem. In early fall, Action Pest Control exterminators treated bed bug infestations in public places. Kevin Pass, Action’s president and owner, knew it was only a matter of time before these night crawling pests spread to the Tri-State.

Bed bugs now invade every setting possible — public libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, call centers. Pass attributes the increase to a combination of travelers, college students, new residents, and seasonal workers. Bed bugs can’t fly or crawl far, so if nothing else, they are “remarkable hitchhikers,” says Pass. They “latch onto your purse sitting in the chair, and then you’re going to carry it to the next place.” Whether that next place is a couch cushion, office chair, or bedroom mattress, bed bugs survive in any season as long as there is food (blood) and a warm place to nestle.

And once the bed bugs arrive, they hate to leave. They are persistent, and ridding the area of them is expensive: upwards of $1,000 depending on space. Pass and his team seek them out by inspecting vast areas and small crevices for an insect that is sometimes translucent and no bigger than the end of a pen. Action’s canines, Indy and Izzy, are adorable — and stunningly accurate bed bug detectors.

Indy and his handler Kirk Hayden joined Action’s staff in March 2011, and in June, Izzy was hired for verification purposes. At each inspection, these dogs sniff for the bug’s chemical scent, a pheromone, and alert their handler by sitting and pawing at the spot. After the bug is found, Izzy confirms her companion’s accuracy. Visual inspections, says COO Keith Smith, are only 15 percent accurate, but with the dogs, “I’ve never seen them miss.”

What people with bed bugs don’t miss is this indicator of the pests: small, mosquito-like welts left during the night. But Smith doesn’t suggest waiting for welts. Preventive measures such as inspecting beds, couches, or recliners with LED flashlights (powerful enough to help detect the bugs) could prove useful when traveling. Inside your own home, check every three months. To remove them, Pass often raises the temperature in the area the dogs isolated to 135 to 150 degrees by using specialized heating units that generate a heat equilibrium. That type of fix, says Pass, works overnight.

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