Monday, February 28, 2011
For years bed bugs were thought of as a problem faced only by the poor, and underdeveloped areas of the world. But now, they seem to be everywhere and spreading across Kansas in a big way.
Patches is a pest-sniffing, insect-exposing, bug-detecting dog. Her specialty is bed bugs.
But the desired reward for Patches, is anything but desire able for her customers. That's because Patches usually gets a call when someone is suffering from intensely itchy bites.
"They were just all over our arms, our neck. They were on my face," Wichitan Dawn Cox said.
At first, Dawn Cox didn't know what was wrong. She and her boyfriend started getting mysterious bites just a week after moving into a new apartment. When she found out what caused the bites, she was shocked.
"It was just really disgusting. It was just gross that....it was just gross! It's all these little bugs just crawling in your bed," Cox said.
What happened to Cox is becoming immensely more common. The sometimes microscopic bugs, that only feed on blood, can live for a year without eating. That means they can stay in an apartment after one tenant moves out, and infest the next one who moves in. And, it can happen to anyone.
"The bed bugs are opportunists. They don't care what your income level is. They don't care what your sanitation level is. All they care about is feeding on you. So, however they can get to you, they're going to get to you," Mark Lillis, of Schendel Pest Services said.
Experts say one of the most common ways for people to spread bed bugs is through travel. When staying in a hotel, guests may set their luggage and belongings on a bed that is infested. Then they pack up those belongings and take them home.
And, getting rid of bed bugs is not easy. Schendel Pest Services kills them by raising the temperature in a home or business to 135 degrees. This method is used because chemicals may not work since the bugs have formed a resistance to many pesticides.
"There's no sign of this epidemic of bed bugs slowing down, and we're forecasting it's going to get worse, a whole lot worse, before it gets better," Schendel added.
Cox says she's not letting the epidemic get to her again. She's moved in the past month, bought her own home, and has had her belongings heat-treated. She says she's learned the alarming truth about bed bugs.
"I thought they were a bedtime story. I thought they were a myth. I thought it was...you know..'Don't let the bed bugs bite'."
But now she knows. That famous bedtime rhyme holds some very real advice.