Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Bedbugs Cause Concern On Cape Cod

7 Nov

11/7/2011 Bedbugs Cause Concern On Cape Cod: Falmouth Housing Officials Take Measures After Bugs Found In Senior Housing

They hide during the day, only to emerge when you fall asleep, so they can suck your blood under the cover of darkness.

“There’s sort of a boogeyman effect to them, because they come and feed on you while you’re sleeping,” said Thomas Lacey, executive director of the Falmouth Housing Authority, about bedbugs, which were found at the Harborview Apartments on Scranton Avenue about three weeks ago.

The housing authority immediately took corrective measures after residents and building staff discovered the parasites in the laundry room and at least two units in the building that’s home to elderly and disabled residents, Lacey said.

Last week, one of the two units was successfully treated, and dogs trained to track bedbugs found none outside the other affected unit, which is also scheduled for treatment, he added.

As the resurgence of bedbugs continues to leave a trail of itchy bites

across the country, the scourge is beginning to affect public housing on Cape Cod.

While few infestations have been reported, officials across the region are preparing for what some see as inevitable: the need to rid their buildings of the bugs.

“It’s like a bad horror flick,” said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist at Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

Some of the former remedies for bedbugs were nightmarish. The early 1950s, for instance, brought forth an era where strong insecticides, such as DDT, were widely sold at low prices and used in households on a regular basis, Pollack said.

“We know now that … wasn’t such a good idea,” Pollack said, referring to the practice’s tendency to leave lingering, dangerous chemicals for people to inhale.

In the past three years or so, the prevalence of these pests has grown from barely noticeable to full-blown, especially in multi-family homes and hotel rooms.

“It’s just everywhere; the Cape is no exception,” said Barbara Thurston, Bourne Housing Authority executive director.

Thurston experienced the problem firsthand in early spring when four units at the Continental Apartments, public housing for elderly residents in Buzzards Bay, became infested. The housing authority shelled out $250 per hour for a dog to find the bugs and then $1,000 per unit to eradicate them, Thurston said.

The pricey extermination method used at the Continental Apartments is a non-toxic one that heats affected rooms to about 140 degrees, said Sandy Rubenstein, who owns Pure Heat, a company that provides this service. The heat kills all bedbugs and eggs without using chemicals, Rubenstein said. Chemical treatments also remain a popular method for eradicating the bugs.

Bedbugs typically use humans as vehicles to travel, and they reproduce wherever they land, said Pollack. They can crawl into clothing or suitcases left unattended in an infested room and find a new home in a mattress, couch or other places where they might find something on which to feed. Their methods of spreading makes places like hotels and apartment buildings especially vulnerable to the species’ proliferation.

“We are preparing in case it does happen,” said Sandee Perry, executive director of the Barnstable Housing Authority.

“(Bedbugs) are around when you have a lot of people,” Perry said. “Unfortunately, it’s inevitable.”

Staying in front of the problem, Perry is in contact with other housing authority directors who have dealt with infestations and sends her employees to training sessions that teach them how to identify the pesky insects, find where the bugs came from, and educate residents on how to keep them from spreading.

While the small, flat, reddish-brown creatures are more prevalent than in past years, Pollack said hysteria over bedbugs has caused many people who seek out his pest-identifying business, IdentifyUs LLC, to show him samples of things like table lint, convinced they are bedbugs.

“It’s something (on which) we just need to educate ourselves to deal with in a rational way,” Pollack said. “In many cases, they’ve already spent $5,000 or more to treat their home” before discovering it isn’t infested.

Pollack also stressed that, contrary to some social stigmas that only dirty or dilapidated homes become infested, bedbugs don’t discriminate between victims.

“Bedbugs don’t care how thick your wallet is … how clean your house is, or how much you shower,” he said.

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Bedbugs Invade Brockton Senior Housing Complex

24 Oct

10/24/2011 Bedbugs Invade Brockton Senior Housing Complex: Kennedy Drive Apartments For Elderly & Disabled Amongst Affefected

Barbara Owens tried sleeping in her Kennedy Drive apartment, but it creeped her out – literally.

Knowing there were tiny bedbugs biting at her arms, legs and neck while she slept was too much for her.

“I couldn’t sleep that night. I was waiting for them to come out,” she said. “I left the next morning.”

Since last weekend, Owens has been staying with her sister in Rhode Island to escape the bugs that left quarter-sized welts on her skin.

Owens is not alone.

Executive Health Officer Louis Tartaglia said bedbugs have been a problem throughout the city.

Health Inspector Mark Zeoli said he gets about one call a week for bedbugs, including a couple of recent complaints from the Kennedy Drive complex, a which is managed by the Brockton Housing Authority for elderly and disabled individuals.

Bedbug treatment is more involved than for mice or roaches, said Owen Ahearn, facilities manager for the authority, as it requires a series of three treatments and a lot of cooperation from the tenant to make sure bedding and clothing is properly laundered and de-bugged so that the bugs aren’t reintroduced after the treatment.

Jeffrey White, a research entomologist and technician for BedBug Central, a bedbug information and exterminator referral company, said reporting and treating bed bugs right away is important.

“As an infestation grows, the chances it’s going to spread from one apartment to another is greater,” he said. “The sooner you deal with it the better.”

He said a realistic response time should be between one and five days.

While you’re waiting for the exterminator, White said, there are things you can do to provide relief, such as vacuuming the carpet and the bottom of the box spring, installing a plastic cover over the mattress, and installing bug traps that slip under the pedestals of the bed.

“That will dramatically reduce your problem,” he said.

The worst thing you can do, he added, is apply your own pesticide. If you spray your bed with pesticide, it merely pushes the bugs into other areas of the house or apartment, spreading the infestation.

“I can deal with an infestation that hasn’t been treated with pesticides way easier than one where they’re been spraying,” he said. “If they haven’t been spraying, I know where they are.”

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When Bedbugs Create Extreme Anxiety

8 Oct

10/8/2011 When Bedbugs Create Extreme Anxiety

Having a case of bedbugs can cause people to feel so desperate they make irrational decisions that can cost them more than just money.

Sandy Rubenstein, a bedbug buster in Yarmouth Port, Mass., says she’s seen a woman washing herself with an ointment intended for horses, people sleeping in mosquito nets, and wrapping their beds in plastic and double-sided tape. She watched as folks threw out everything they owned and tried using hamsters as deterrents, hoping the bugs would bite the rodents instead of them.

When you’re on the outside looking in, it’s hard to imagine why people would spray themselves with poisonous pesticides. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an elderly woman in North Carolina died after using large amounts of pesticides and coating her body with bug spray and flea powder. More than 100 people have made themselves sick using pesticides to kill bedbugs. Some people have been so anxious to get rid of bedbugs, they burned their houses down. It may take weeks or months to get rid of the pestilence, but victims say the psychological effects of the ordeal can last a lifetime.

“You can kill the bugs in people’s beds, but you can’t kill the bugs in people’s heads,” says Rubenstein, who started the company PureHeat after spending 18 months (and $40,000)battling between 2007 and 2008. “It’s a paranoia that stays for life. You never get over having bedbugs.”

Annie Lynsen of Silver Spring, Md., has a current case of bedbugs in her apartment, and she’s doing her best to cope. She discovered the bedbugs after spending weeks thinking she and her husband were being bitten by mosquitos. Then, in mid-September, she saw a bedbug crawling up the mattress.

Sandy Rubenstein of Cape Cod, Mass. spent $40,000 trying to get rid of her bedbugs and is still haunted by them.

The apartment is in disarray while the couple waits for the exterminator to come every two weeks. They’ve laundered and bagged their clothes, pulled furniture two feet from walls and live in chaos. They can’t visit friends, can’t have guests, and feel nervous they’ll miss celebrating Thanksgiving with relatives.

“I know there are bedbugs in my bed, and I have to sleep there anyway because I don’t want to spread them elsewhere. That’s really the horrifying part,” says the 31-year-old marketer. “We have sleepless nights and nightmares. I feel like this is the night something is going to come out and bite me and I don’t know what’s going to happen to me in the next eight hours.”

Lynsen thought she did everything possible to avoid bedbugs, including encasing the mattress in a bedbug-proof cover, and keeping her luggage off the floor in hotel rooms while traveling this summer. But she acknowledges she forgot about the box spring, where she found an infestation.

“We’re better now than when we first discovered them,” she says. “We couldn’t shake the feeling of being unclean and having this idea of things under the bed trying to get us. Now, I’m stronger because I know something is being done.”

Feelings of being out of control are what makes people suffer most, says Myrtle Means, a clinical psychologist with offices in the Detroit area.

“That causes the greatest distress,” she says. “Don’t focus on the what ifs, focus on what is. ‘I have bedbugs. What do I do to get rid of bedbugs? I can call an exterminator.’ You begin to feel helpless and hopeless and like the situation is unmanageable. Bedbugs are manageable.”

After she instructs clients to call an exterminator, she suggest they identify what is causing the greatest amounts of stress and anxiety such as not having the money to handle the situation, possibly having to move or throwing away their belongings. She also suggests reading the book, “Anxiety, Phobias and Panic,” and trying relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and imagery, imaging themselves in a calming place such as on a beach or lying in a hammock.

Although she sees bedbugs daily, Rubenstein manages her own paranoia by being extra cautious. She tosses her clothes in the dryer when arriving home, pulls back the sheets and headboards in hotel rooms, and never puts her luggage on the floor. She warns people to stop bringing home used furniture unless it’s from a reputable dealer and certainly avoid taking items from a roadside. Check on elderly friends and relatives, who may be unaware of bedbugs. Taking precautions, she says, are much better than dealing with bedbugs.

“Your bed is your sanctuary; it’s where you go to relax,” she says. “When you get them, you think they are crawling on you all the time. You wonder where they are hiding and you can’t relax. It makes people suffer on their jobs and in their personal lives.”

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Bedbug Entrepreneurs Compete To Create Best Products

30 Sep

9/30/2011 Bedbug Entrepreneurs Compete To Create Best Products

Some want to bake them. Others prefer to freeze them. Still others dehydrate them.

Inventors will try just about anything to kill bed bugs, those nasty, reddish-brown, blood-sucking parasites that are the worst nightmare of many hotel guests.

America’s obsession with bed bugs has led to a rush of entrepreneurs seeking profit from exterminating them, and about 75 companies gathered this week in hopes of launching the perfect beg bug killer.

“I never figured I’d be in Chicago for a bed bug conference. I never thought that in my wildest dreams,” Mike Bourdeau, operations manager at Flynn Pest Control in Massachusetts, said at the second annual Bed Bug University.

Bourdeau said bed bug business is booming. It went from virtually zero percent of Flynn Pest Control’s business less than five years ago to about 20 percent of what the company brings in today.

“It’s probably going to be a big part of our business for … the next ten years,” he said.

A study this year by University of Kentucky researchers and the National Pest Management Association showed 80 percent of surveyed pest control companies had treated hotels for bed bugs within a year, up from 67 percent a year ago.

More than 80 percent of the surveyed companies said they believed bed bug infestations were on the rise.

Whether there are more bed bugs these days or just more publicity about them is hotly debated, but there is general agreement that the problem is here to stay.

“It will become like roaches and ants. It’s not going anywhere. We will deal with bed bugs the rest of our lives,” said Phillip Cooper, chief executive officer of BedBug Central, a research and information firm.
Companies attending the conference showed search and destroy methods ranging from bug-sniffing dogs to vacuum-like machines that spout carbon dioxide to freeze the bugs.

For example, The Bed Bug Baker features a heated tent that can hold a dining room’s worth of furniture to bake away bed bugs at home. For hotel room infestations, there’s an electric heater that can bake the whole room.

Another product is a dust made of crushed fossils called diatomaceous earth that can be sprinkled on floors. It kills bed bugs by dehydrating their shell. Bed bugs walk through the dust, which is also a desiccant, and gradually dry out, said Jeffrey White, an entomologist with BedBug Central.

The measures might seem exotic, but academics and inventors say the number of bed bug hiding spots in hospitals, hotels, homes or even on public transportation, make it hard to apply a “silver bullet” treatment.

While hotel infestations get the most attention, a new study conducted by the University of Kentucky showed college dormitories, nursing homes, hospitals and office buildings are the new battlegrounds. Pest control companies report double-digit growth from last year in treating bed bugs at each place.

“It’s no longer going to be the hotels that are the problem,” said Mike Lindsey, president of Bedbug Boxes. “So you’re going to have to keep chasing it around and find that solution for that particular place.”

Lindsey quit his six figures engineering job to chase the dream of being a bed bug entrepreneur.

He invented a box lined with what look like solar panels to heat clothes or luggage to temperatures that kill bed bugs after his family brought the pests home to Colorado from a Mexico vacation. Now he is marketing a suitcase that uses the same strips to roast any bed bugs inside.

Kenneth F. Haynes, a professor who studies insect behavior at the University of Kentucky, said people have a stigma about bed bugs, and are often embarrassed to get help treating an infestation. The industry is trying to defeat the stigma, which could unlock more customers.

For now, a scramble is on to tap a growing market. Once extermination products for the pest are widely accepted the need for a gathering of experts will fade away.

“We don’t have a roach conference. We don’t have a mouse conference. So, once we get to that point, there will be no need for a bed bug conference,” Cooper said.

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New England Bedbug Outbreak Leads To One Day Summit

18 Feb

2/18/2011 New England Bedbug Outbreak Leads To One Day Summit: Attendees Gather To Learn New Techniques To Battle Bedbugs

Scores of property managers, pest exterminators, and others are gathering today at a Dedham hotel to learn new inspection techniques and treatments for bedbug infestations.

Throughout the day, about 200 attendees will learn new methods for finding and treating bedbugs, the biology behind the pests, and results of new studies on the bugs.

“Unfortunately, the problems are growing in New England and throughout the country,” said Missy Henriksen, the National Pest Management Association’s vice president for public affairs.

Bedbug problems have made headlines in the past few years. New York caught the spotlight in the fall, with reports of infestations in the Empire State Building, Bloomingdale’s, and Lincoln Center.

A federal government working group held a summit earlier this month to brainstorm on how to eliminate the common creatures that can hide in mattresses, wallpaper, and even picture frames. The insects can survive for months without eating and are known for biting people while they sleep, spreading easily through nearly anything, including clothing.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health doesn’t collect statistics on bedbugs because they do not spread infectious diseases, so there are few comprehensive statistics available, a spokesman said.

But Globe North reported in November that pest control experts north of Boston were seeing an increase in calls for help with bedbug problems. And Boston ranked 11th last year on a list of the 15 most bedbug-infested cities that was released by the pest control company Terminix.

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Bed Bugs Reported At Field Trip Camp New Hampshire/Mass

23 Oct

10/13/10 Bed Bugs Reported At Field Trip Camp New Hampshire/Mass

DUXBURY —

Eighth graders at Duxbury Middle School may have brought home more than happy memories from an overnight field trip held last week in New Hampshire.

According to a phone message sent to parents Tuesday afternoon, bed bugs were found in cabins at Camp Cody in Freedom, N.H., where the entire eighth grade and teachers spent three nights as part of the Nature’s Classroom program.

On its website, the program is described as “a unique educational experience for students and their teachers, offering the very best in environmental education.”

According to Superintendent Benedict Tantillo, staff and campers were informed when they arrived at the camp there had been a problem, but that bedbug-sniffing dogs had been brought in and all the infested mattresses had been replaced.

“All we know is they told us that once they arrived, they had an issue the week before,” Tantillo said.

Word that the problem may not have been eliminated came from a parent who learned from a news report that another group of students, scheduled to stay at Camp Cody after the DMS trip, canceled their trip upon being told of the bedbug problem.

Some students have come forward with reports of bug bites, Tantillo said, but it hasn’t been determined how they got them. Not many parents have called the school about the issue, he added. No staff members who went on the trip have come forward.

“I wonder why they didn’t tell us,” Tantillo said. He said the department would have to consider whether it would return to Camp Cody. Tantillo suspected the camp was afraid the school would cancel the trip if they had been told in advance of the problem.

Phillip Ross, director of Camp Cody, said that after a dog found a potentially infested mattress, he informed Nature’s Classroom of the problem, with the expectation they would share that information with the school. Ross said the camp regularly checks beds and cabins for bed bugs.

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