Maclean’s on bed bugs

by nobugsonme on January 11, 2008 · 4 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs and health, bed bugs in the media, canada, entomologists, pest control

Canadian news weekly Maclean’s has a story on bed bugs dated January 3, 2008 by John Intini.

The article conveys the scope of the problem and the speed at which it seems to be spreading:

To get a full sense of the bedbug boom, ask any pest control expert. [Carlo] Panacci, for one, used to have a 1-800 number for his company, Cain Pest Control, but cancelled it because he was getting overwhelmed by cries for help from people in B.C., Newfoundland and everywhere in between. He now averages about eight to 10 bedbug inquiries a day. “I got so busy with bedbugs I gave up on raccoons and squirrels,” he says. Doug Wadlow, who runs Orkin Pest Control in Edmonton, says bedbug calls are up 300 per cent from 2004. Meanwhile, John Mitten, branch manager of Poulin’s Pest Control in Vancouver, says bedbugs will total 25 per cent of his firm’s work this year. That’s up from 13 per cent in ’06. Some U.S. companies are getting as many as 50 bedbug calls a day. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see which way this is headed,” says Michael Potter, an entomology professor at the University of Kentucky and one of the world’s top bedbug researchers. Potter describes the spread of bedbugs as “a bit like a communicable disease.”

Although he acknowledges that bed bugs “don’t transmit disease,” the author nevertheless seems to get that bed bugs do have an adverse effect on mental health. Anecdotes convey the strain of a bed bug infestation, as well as the anxiety people feel even after the bed bugs are apparently gone–the fear they might still be there, the nervousness.

One study of pest control professionals found that 60 per cent of clients are more upset by the discovery of bedbugs than ro­­dents, termites or roaches. It’s no wonder bedbug support groups and message boards have popped up on­­line.


Intini also conveys the anxiety of professionals who fear bringing their work home:

Even pest control ex­­­­perts suffer the occasional anxiety attack. “A couple of times, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, felt some­­thing crawl on me, and just freaked out,” says Goldman. “It turned out to be my wife’s hair.”

Intini notes that “If anyone should be frightened of bedbugs, it’s those in the hotel business,” and describes some of the steps hotels are taking to avoid bed bugs, and to get rid of them.

A new statistic from Dr. Potter on bed bug-reactive people (ie those with itchy bite marks):

“I’ve been in places where the wife is getting slaughtered and the husband, who is sleeping in the same bed, doesn’t react at all,” says Potter. As much as half the population, he says, won’t show any signs.

We’ve seen statistics as high as 70% bandied about, but I’m willing to go with Potter’s 50%. (Of course, it’s hard to know: some who are non-reactive may not be bitten.)

And finally, somber words from Dr. Potter:

And, says Potter, “it doesn’t look like there is a silver-bullet bedbug eliminator coming down the pipe any time soon.”

We have heard this before, but wait, there’s more:

Even if one did, he says, the liability of spraying beds and couches with it would restrict its use. “Bedbugs live in all the places that we’ve been training the pest control industry in the last 20 years not to spray,” says Potter. “Back in the days of DDT, it was recommended practice to spray the pillows, the entire mattress. Nothing wasn’t dripping when you walked out.” Before then, bedbugs were a whole lot more common. “I’ve read diaries from the ’30s where they wrote about springtime bedbug cleaning,” says Potter. “They’d throw boiling water on the walls, pour oil into the crevices of the wood floors, sleep for two weeks and then start the process again. It was part of life.”

I found this helpful in elucidating why it isn’t just about bringing back a banned pesticide or creating a new one; the whole culture on pesticides has changed since we last had to deal with bed bugs in North America (on a large scale, anyway).

All in all, nothing terribly new, but lots of good soundbites, and all in all, a good consciousness-raising piece.

Nice work John Intini and Maclean’s!

Read the article here.

1 hopelessnomo January 11, 2008 at 11:45 am

Dr. Potter, please share your reading list with the little people. 😉

2 parakeets January 11, 2008 at 12:40 pm

In Canada, who addresses bedbugs is not the same in each province. I don’t know if this has been referenced on this blog, but here is a link by the CBC about provincial differences in bedbug responsibility

3 nobugsonme January 11, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Thanks Parakeets–we have links to that info. on the FAQ about who pays for treatment:

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