Last week, bed bugs were discovered at the Tim Horton’s Childrens Camp in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. Since the Canada Winter Games athletes were expected to billet there this week, this was bad timing.
On February 9th, The Canadian Press reported that bed bugs had been found, and the dorms treated with steam:
Spokeswoman Melissa MacKinnon says workers at the Tim Hortons Children’s Camp in Tatamagouche — a two-hour drive north of Halifax — used a steam cleaner to sanitize the dorm and also left it open to the cold to kill the bloodsucking pests.
“All the bugs have been eradicated from Tim Hortons camp,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re proceeding with our plans to have our athletes stay there.”
She says the dorm, which has about 40 beds, was given the all-clear Wednesday after a specially trained sniffer dog failed to detect any bugs.
The same news source also notes the workers planned to inspect the beds every two days between that initial “cleanup” and the arrival of the skiers in two weeks.
We hear it time and time again in various news accounts: bed bugs discovered, location treated once (but not with gas fumigation or structural heat treatment) and location confidently declared “bed bug free”.
Declaring bed bugs are gone after one treatment is a common pattern in news stories about bed bugs, and every time I come across it, something in me shouts, “Codswollop!”
Okay, not “Codswollop!” actually, but a word I can’t actually say on a family blog, like this one.
I am not sure why PR spokespeople feel so free in declaring bed bugs gone after (apparently) one steam treatment, but it’s not the norm, based on stories I hear, for a single treatment with any combination of steam, freezing C02, pesticide sprays or dusts to yield a one-shot cure for bed bugs. It’s not impossible, but it’s almost always too soon to say. (In this case a dog apparently called it clear, but more on that in a moment.)
Only a contact killer was used in this instance — steam. It’s a great tool. But contact killers — even excellent ones like steam applied by a good dry vapor steamer — do not always reach all bed bugs present in the first go-around.
The second would-be contact killer in this case (“leaving [rooms] open to the cold”) is not reliable at all. Ambient temperatures, even in Nova Scotia in February, are not enough. You can’t assume the core of the structure with its doors left open is going to reach and maintain freezing temperatures long enough to kill all bed bugs present inside.
And let’s be honest, the folks at the camp should be aware of how persistent bed bugs can be, since as this article notes, children reported bites at the camp as recently as November 2010. In other words, this is not the first time they’ve treated for bed bugs.
In this case, a canine scent detection unit was apparently used to determine the rooms to be free of bed bugs. I don’t need to tell you that bed bug sniffing dogs are not 100% accurate.
And so, dear reader, it is no great surprise to discover, this week, that those bed bugs were not actually gone, but just patiently waiting for their next meal. It’s now come to light that the camp still has bed bugs, and the athletes have had to be moved to other accommodations.
As this CBC article noted yesterday:
. . . Games CEO Chris Morrissey says signs of the bloodsucking bugs were found in an unused dorm at the summer camp about a 90-minute drive from Halifax.
He says organizers decided to move the athletes to a military base in Halifax for the remainder of the competition.