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Hiding under the bed: Exterminators discuss bed bugs and how to face them

Dickinson may not be known for problems with bed bugs, but that doesn't mean they're not there. The parasitic insects are known for stowing away in the folds of furniture and biting those that come in contact with them. They are also capable of h...

Dickinson may not be known for problems with bed bugs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

The parasitic insects are known for stowing away in the folds of furniture and biting those that come in contact with them. They are also capable of hitchhiking on clothing and other objects, making them easily spreadable.

Worldwide, areas that see large amounts of human traffic have had issues with bed bugs, particularly accommodation in metropolitan areas.

Derrick Benz of Minnesota-based Plunkett’s Pest Control, which also serves North Dakota, said his company records show that it responded to four reports of bed bugs in Dickinson in 2012.

“I would estimate in the last few years, we’ve done close to 20” invoices in Dickinson, Benz said.

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Benz believes the increase in human traffic due to the oil industry shares some link with the rise in bed bug reports in the general region. More people moving in and around creates an ideal environment for them to spread, he said.

A common issue in fighting bed bug infestations is that they can go unreported when discovered, Benz said. Some people try to do home treatments, which aren’t always effective.

Populations then tend to spread, he said, traveling between apartments within a complex and elsewhere.

“Once the population gets high ... people are likely to carry them on the clothes, on their bags, on their purse,” Benz said.

They can also spread through secondhand furniture. Benz said his company has come across many instances where items such as infested mattresses are put out on the curb, only for them to be picked up by another individual.

Benz recounted one instance, not in Dickinson, where an invested sectional sofa was thrown into the dumpster, and his company later responded to infestations in three different residences that had taken parts of the sofa.

This has led some companies and landlords to deface or otherwise ruin trashed furniture to make it as unappealing as possible, he said.

Benz said bed bugs have become harder to kill than in the past. He said he knew of another case where someone unsuccessfully tried to cure an infested mattress by leaving outside a whole winter.

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“Really, leaving stuff outside is not good enough anymore,” he said.

Contrary to some beliefs, Benz said bed bugs are not microscopic. He compared them to the size of an appleseed, saying that his company usually seeks them out with the naked eye and a flashlight.

They are also visible through the sizeable fecal stains they leave, he said.

Benz said his company uses a heating treatment to eradicate bed bugs, where portable heaters are used to kill them wherever they are.

Francis Knopik of Quality Xterminators in Belfield said he personally hasn’t noticed any significant rise in bed bug reports with the expansion of the oil industry in the area, but that they sometimes come in waves.

However, due to the human traffic Dickinson has experienced since the oil boom, Knopik said he’s coming across new creatures that he’s never seen before in his decade-long career.

Especially for motels and hotels, Knopik said, it’s generally not a question of if they will encounter bed bugs, but when.

“The odds are against you,” he said, citing the amount of traffic they receive. “Just be aware.”

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Even in winter, bedbugs are a threat. Knopik said it only takes a 70-degree temperature and a presence of water -- which all homes have -- for the creatures to thrive.

Like Benz, Knopik advised against taking any furniture from the streetside for personal use. He also discourages people from attempting do-it-yourself remedies to rid themselves of bed bugs, saying that while he won’t call them completely ineffective, it usually takes an expert to do a thorough job in wiping them out.

“I want people to start doing things the right way,” he said.

Knopik said he uses a chemical treatment to exterminate bed bugs, as opposed to a heat treatment.

Knopik said that, no matter what, if someone sees any sort of critter in their house that they can’t readily identify, the first thing they should do is to call an expert.

If someone is calling him, Knopik said to first capture a live specimen in a sealable bag before bringing it to his office to be identified. He said many people smash a bug and bring it in, rendering it unidentifiable.

In the end, he said it all hinges on how one responds to a potential crisis.

“It just depends on if somebody watches it and gets ahold of someone right away,” Knopik said.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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