Pest control businesses report increase in bedbugs at commercial buildings

By Morgan Chilson, February 27, 2018

Bedbugs are being found in more commercial buildings. Tips:

• Take as few belongings as possible into commercial buildings.

• Keep things close to you and away from places bedbugs might lurk, such as outlets, baseboards or furniture.

• Do a brief inspection. Adult bedbugs are usually visible as dark brown or mahogany bugs.

Bedbugs are scurrying away from the bedroom and into offices, schools and other commercial buildings, two Topeka pest control businesses report.

The pest’s name is derived from its preference for mattresses and bedrooms where it can feast at night on sleeping humans. But now, because they are easily transportable, bedbugs are showing up in area businesses, including a bank, school and government offices.

“I’m seeing more and more activity in commercial properties,” said Tom Clarke, of Keller Pest Control. “We just recently had a big facility that does lending — a bank and mortgage company — and they had two locations that bedbugs were transported in by employees. I had one lady that was suspended from work because she was taking bedbugs to work with her. That was actually in a government office.”

Joseph Davidson, general manager for Schendel Pest Services, agreed that his company is receiving more calls about bedbugs in corporate buildings.

“Those that do work in corporate settings or commercial settings are finding out that their ability to hitchhike is so great that it’s underestimated,” he said.

Davidson and Clarke said they aren’t sure whether the number of bedbugs is on the rise or more people are aware of and looking for them. A 2014 report in Entomology, Ornithology & Herpetology: Current Research about the bedbug epidemic said the bugs were considered eradicated in the U.S. in the 1940s. But beginning in the 1980s, reports began to proliferate, and some now refer to the increased number of bedbugs as an epidemic.

Either way, the pests definitely are being found outside of hotels, motels and homes, Davidson and Clarke said. That means Topekans need to be more aware of the bugs and what they do when they are in commercial buildings. Davidson called a question about how to avoid bringing them home the “impossible question.”

“Right now, the best thing we can advise people is if you’re worried about that, carry in as little stuff as possible with you into those settings,” he said. “Try not to set those items where they can be in a questionable area, where hitchhiking bedbugs can get on them.”

Davidson said people often mistake bedbugs for ticks. Adult bed bugs are mahogany or brown in color and don’t have the markings ticks typically do. For instance, ticks sometimes have a white dot or even a start-shaped marking. Bedbug nymphs, or babies, are cream-colored or clear, making them more difficult to see.

It can be a challenge for commercial business owners to keep the problem under control, he said, because of the number of people coming and going.

Davidson said most pest control companies, like Schendel, will do free inspections, and his company also will identify bugs people bring in if they are uncertain. Schendel also has access to a dog trained to detect whether bedbugs are in a facility.

Finding bedbugs doesn’t mean an environment is dirty — “they’re incredible hitchhikers,” he noted — but it is helpful to vacuum areas well with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. If there is a problem, multiple treatment approaches work, including raising temperatures to 120 degrees or higher with a heating unit or even using a rapid-freeze process. Pesticides also are available.

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