Summer vacation —the perfect time to travel! However, as many Canadians plan holidays throughout the country and abroad, it’s important to make sure you don’t bring back any bed bug souvenirs.
Bed bugs in Canada? You bet; as climate change becomes an increasing issue, so do beg bugs because our winters are not as cold as they were, and we are experiencing higher humidity rates. Decreased uses in harmful pesticides, such as DDT, also unfortunately enhance the risk of unwanted pests.
Bed bugs are nocturnal insects about the size of an apple seed. Under a microscope, they’re oval shaped with no wings, and are either dark or light brown depending on how much blood they’ve consumed. They pose as a nuisance because they can survive for a year with only one human blood meal.
How can you protect yourself, and reduce the spread? To learn more about prevention and elimination, ECO Canada interviewed Iqbal Kalsi (EP), Environmental Health and Project Manager, PCB Blood Survey, Health Hazards (Toxicology & Risk Assessment), Preventative & Emergency Response, with the Middlesex-London Health Unit in Ontario.
Kalsi’s team uses integrated pest management to proactively control bed bugs with education and proper mitigation measures. “We have always viewed bed bugs as a public health matter, but over the last five years we’ve studied the rising numbers of bed bugs, and it’s gone to a phenomenal level.”
He explains bed bugs are not affected by social class—anybody can have them. “It’s a lifestyle issue; we travel more frequently, buy things from second-hand stores, and share and borrow with our neighbours.”
When travelling, Kalsi says it’s important to conduct an assessment of the accommodations upon arrival. “When you get to a hotel, keep on the lookout for the bugs. Check the pillows, mattress seams, and under the box spring. They could also be in the cracks of the floors, or living on shower curtains and chair cushions.”
After the vacation, Kalsi suggests taking your luggage to the garage or outside, and looking through the items individually to make sure you don’t bring anything into your home.
“Shake your clothes out, and use a flashlight to identify the bugs or their droppings. If you’re worried they might be hiding in the corners or crevasses of your bag, use a hot dryer; the hot air will make them come out of their hiding places.”
Since bed bugs are nocturnal, some people don’t see the bugs themselves, but notice bites on their bodies afterwards. According to bedbugsinfo.ca, most bites are initially painless and don’t require medical attention, but could turn into large, itchy skin welts.
Kalsi explains the bites usually come in groups of three, and jokes that, “three bites means the bed bugs got their breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
If bed bugs are identified in the home, pest control professionals will need to confirm the infestation, and eliminate the bugs using pesticide treatments. “Always use licensed pesticide services. Don’t just use anyone who says they know how to deal with the issue. Ask for their credentials to make sure they can get the job done right,” says Kalsi.
For more information on identification, prevention, and what to do if bed bugs come home, check out bedbugsinfo.ca, or call your local public health unit.
Have you ever had a bed bug experience? Share your story!
Image from the Armed Forces Pest Management Board