Don’t let the bedbugs bite Charleston

bed bugs pest control service charleston sc

Photo above courtesy of Post & Courier.

Searching the seams of mattresses, behind headboards and under dust ruffles once was considered odd behavior. But peering into such spaces in houses and other buildings is becoming more common since a pest, thought to have been eradicated decades ago, has returned.

It’s the bedbug. Some say it’s back with a vengeance.

When night falls, bedbugs crawl from hiding places in and around beds, baseboards, wall outlets, picture frames and window coverings. The bugs move about in search of warm-blooded animals, usually humans, for their blood meal.

Their five- to 10-minute feedings are not painful, so victims often can’t figure out what is causing the hive-like welts that can result. Telltale signs, however, can include blood droplets that bugs leave on bed linens and their excrement, which resembles tiny black dots, and can be found around the house.

The proliferation of bedbugs has nothing to do with hygiene and they are not believed to spread disease, according to experts.

Increased international travel, lack of public awareness and increased resistance to pesticides as well as changes in their application, are reasons offered for the increase in the bugs. The bugs, whose adults are brownish-red and about the size of an apple seed, spread when they get into suitcases, gym bags, clothes, shoes and more. When those items are moved, they move with them.

“Because bedbugs don’t discriminate between rich and poor, don’t have a preference for climate or environment, public awareness, education and vigilance are key in detecting and preventing bedbug infestations,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association.

Survey released

More than 75 percent of 1,000 U.S. pest control professionals answering the “2010 Comprehensive Global Bedbug Study,” conducted by the association and the University of Kentucky, say they believe the Bedbug is the most difficult pest to treat, more than roaches or termites. Henriksen says.

Last year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency held a National Bedbug Summit and a Bedbug control bill was introduced in Congress.

The issue also is being considered by state and local governments across the country, including New York City, which recently committed $500,000 to carry out some recommendations of its Bedbug advisory board.

Many websites, including,,, and are available to inform the public about preventing and eliminating Bedbug problem.

Of the pest management professionals responding to NPMA’s survey, 95 percent say they have encountered a Bedbug infestation in the past year.

Before 2000, only about 25 percent had encountered a bedbug infestation in the previous year. The bugs were encountered in homes, hotels, college dorms, apartments and homes, the association says. The bugs also have been found in hospitals, movie theaters, offices, retail stores, buses and taxies and laundries.

Locally, Rusty Ackerman and Randy Bishop, president and past president of the Greater Charleston Pest Control Association, respectively, say the members have noticed a big increase in infestations, but not to the degree being found in higher population centers. Ackerman says they are ramping up Bedbug training because they expect to see more.

Bishop, who got three to four Bedbug calls a month last year, now gets three to four such calls a week.

Ackerman, with Terminix, and Bishop, who owns Allpro Pest Management, are getting calls from apartment complexes. Bishop also is responding to more calls from single-family homes and businesses.

Ackerman says part of the reason bedbugs have gained a foothold is that exterminators now find pests and treat them in isolated areas. The days when exterminators used chemicals all along baseboards and in corners throughout a residence or commercial establishment have been gone for decades. Integrated pest management, inspecting, finding pests and treating the problem on a very local basis is a healthier approach.

DHEC complaints

Bedbugs don’t carry disease, so they are not reportable as significant public health threat, says Paul Campbell, environmental health manager, Department of Environmental Health and Control in the tri-county area.

“We do get complaints on facilities that are regulated by DHEC such as motels and hotels. In this area, we might get as many as half a dozen a month,” Campbell says. “Typically we go out and see the room if its available.

“DHEC breaks down the bed, looks under furniture and take light plates off and checks. They also check adjacent rooms to the sides, above and below the targeted room. The finest hotel can have a problem just as the budget ones can. There are some good pest control professionals that know what to do and we refer the facility to them.”

Campbell says DHEC can not do anything about bedbugs in private residences and recommends visiting the Harvard School of Public Health website listed previously.

Homeowners can try to take care of the problem themselves but might not be successful, he says. In that case, they should call a professional before the problem gets out of hand.

“There are some insecticides that work very well (such as) pyrethrins. There are some gel-based ones that can be used on baseboards. Highly toxic pesticides such as DDT were banned years ago and that may be part of the problem.”

The bedbugs, he notes, can be killed by freezing them or steaming them.

Professionals design treatment approach for infestation on a case-by-case basis and estimate they will cost from about $700 to $1,200. Treatments usually involve applying heat and chemical pesticides in the specific locations where the bedbugs are found.

Some other protective measures, like the ones taken at the College of Charleston, make it harder for the bugs to get a foothold.

Randy Beaver, the College of Charleston’s director of environmental health and safety, says his office investigates a room whenever a student thinks he has bedbugs. In the three years he’s been in that position, there have been no confirmed cases of Bedbug infestation. The college, he says, follows both Centers for Disease Control and Harvard School of Public Health guidelines for dealing with bedbugs.

In addition, he says the college has used rubber or plastic-covered mattresses instead of cloth ones for years. There is a lower possibility for bedbugs to infest those, because there is very little seam available for them to hide in.

Dealing with Bedbugs

For an infestation of bedbugs, Harvard School of Public Health recommends you:

–Reduce clutter to limit hiding places for bedbugs.

–Thoroughly clean the infested rooms as well as others in the residence. Scrub infested surfaces with a stiff brush to dislodge eggs, and use a powerful vacuum to remove bedbugs from cracks and crevices. Dismantling bed frames will expose additional bug hiding sites. Remove drawers from desks and dressers and turn furniture over, if possible, to inspect and clean all hiding spots.

–Encase mattresses and box springs within special mattress bags. Once they are installed, inspect the bags to ensure they are undamaged; if any holes or tears are found, seal these completely with permanent tape. Any bugs trapped within these sealed bags will eventually die.

–Pull the bed frame away from the wall, tuck in sheets and blankets so they won’t contact the floor, and place the frame legs into dishes or cups of mineral oil.

–Caulk and seal all holes where pipes and wires penetrate walls and floor, and fill cracks around baseboards and cove moldings to further reduce harborages.

–Contact a licensed pest control operator who is knowledgeable and experienced in managing bedbug infestations if you own your residence. Ask the pest control company for references, and ask at least a few of their customers about their experiences before you agree to any contract.

–Contact your property manager or landlord to discuss your respective obligations, and to agree on a plan to manage the infestation if you are a tenant. Generally, landlords are legally required to contract with a licensed pest control operator.

Preventing Bedbugs

Tips from the National Pest Management Association:

–Vacuum suitcases after returning from a vacation.

–Check your bedsheets for tell-tale blood spots.

–Consider bringing a large plastic trashbag to keep your suitcase in during hotel stays.

–Carry a small flashlight to assist you with quick inspections.

–Never bring second-hand furniture, especially mattresses and box springs, into a home without thoroughly examining it for signs of a bedbug infestation. You might consider having a pest control professional inspect the furniture.

–Regularly inspect areas where pets sleep for signs of bedbugs.

–Bedbugs are elusive creatures, so it is imperative to seek professional pest control to address an infestation.

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