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News : Itchy awareness grows as bedbugs make comeback, says Tom Turpin

Itchy awareness grows as bedbugs make comeback, says Tom Turpin
by Bob Scott Jounal and Courier

Bedbugs seem to be making a comeback nationwide, but experts say there is no need to panic.

"There is no question there are more bedbugs than 20 years ago," said Purdue entomologist Tom Turpin.  "I've only been bitten once, when I was in Africa years ago. I don't remember it itching quite as long as chigger bites."

Phyllis Hanstra, a 40-year employee at Reliable Exterminators in Lafayette, said people have been bringing in the bloodsuckers this summer.  "We have quite a few people who have come in for us to identify their insects." she said. "It's been going on for a year, but more are coming in this summer."

In recent months, the national media has been reporting about infestations in major American cities. The Orkin pest control company reports that "bedbugs are exploding on the scene with a vengeance," especially in the Southeast, and warns travelers to take precautions.

Terminix pest control even listed the Top 15 most bedbug-infested cities based on the number of service calls about bedbugs. New York was No. 1 on the list, Chicago No. 5 and Indianapolis No. 12. Four Ohio cities made the list.

According to the Orkin, bedbugs are flat, reddish-brown insects about 3/16-inch long or the size of an apple seed.  "They make a little red blotch when they bite. They become engorged after they have a blood meal," said Hanstra.  It's enough to give a person the creeps.

Turpin said bedbugs "don't ride on humans" but hitch a ride in everything from suitcases, clothing and stuffed toy animals.  For example, he said bedbugs can be brought to a movie theater seat via clothing or a little kid's teddy bear.  Turpin then recited a ditty about the critters: "The June bug has a gaudy wing. The firefly has a flame. The bedbugs have no wings at all, but they get there just the same."

Hanstra and Turpin agreed that increased travel, including more international travel, is one reason bedbugs may be on the increase.  "They are brought in with people's luggage," Hanstra said. "The bites are usually around the middle section, arms and sometimes on the face."

Turpin said there are well-known bedbug infestations in many major world cities. He cautioned international travelers.  "Moving in and out of heavily infested areas there are more opportunities for bedbugs to travel," he said.

Hanstra advised travelers to shake out their clothing and to closely inspect their mattress and sheets while in a hotel or motel.

Turpin said to keep luggage closed while in a hotel room.  "Also, shut your laptop computer at night. Bedbugs are attracted to heat," he said.  He said persistent, or long-lasting, insecticides no longer are used.  "Today, we don't like using those, but they were effective," he said.

Hanstra also suggested people inspect their bedding and furniture if they suspect they have bedbugs. She said most people can't find or kill bedbugs. She advised using professionals.  "If you suspect them, bring in the bug," she said. "We can tell if it's a bedbug."

Purdue University residence halls and its 12,000 beds don't have a problem with bedbugs, said Tamm Hoggatt, director of facilities for university residences. He said he thinks there was one case of bedbugs last year.  "We buy a special mattress with inverted seams and a SOFlux mattress covering that is antibacterial and antifungal," he said.  "If we determine a resident would have bedbugs, we give them information on how to wash the bedding and then we treat for it. We even look behind baseboards."