Bedbug summit opens in Toronto

An Ontario Liberal is hoping a bedbug summit in Toronto will lead to a Canada-wide co-ordinated approach to stamping out a growing infestation.

An Ontario Liberal is hoping Wednesday's bedbug summit in Toronto will lead to a Canada-wide co-ordinated approach to stamping out a growing infestation.

Michael Colle says 120 people will attend the summit near the provincial legislature. 

That's only about half the number that wanted to take part.

Those attending include pest management experts, health units, landlords and people whose homes have been invaded by bedbugs.

Jean McEwan is one of those who has been affected by the bedbug outbreak. She first noticed bedbugs in her bachelor apartment in June.

"I didn't know what they were but it ended up I had a queen size bed that had to go because there were so many of them," she said. "One morning I must have squished about 40 or 60 just with my fingers."

A pest control company sprayed McEwan's apartment four times.

McEwan, who is in a wheelchair and on a pension, says that since the bedbugs arrived her life has been chaos.

"I've lived for about two-and-a-half months just surrounded by green garbage bags. Everything had to be packed up," she said, "pillows everything."

Abel Pest Control has produced an online bedbug training video for hotels, hospitals and apartment buildings.

Company spokesperson Mike Heimbach says he will tell people at the bedbug summit that education is the key to controlling outbreaks.

"People like nurses and cleaning staff and a lot of front-line people that work in many public facilities don't even know what a bedbug looks like," he said. 

Heimbach says the pests can spread quickly and that just a few bedbugs can multiply into thousands if left untreated.

Colle says Canadians are travelling in and out of airports and across provincial boundaries constantly — and bedbugs can travel with them. 

He wants a national plan to battle bedbugs, either through providing people with information or bringing in standards, especially for chemicals that can be used to kill the bugs.

Colle says Ontario health officials have begun talking with local health authorities and their counterparts across the country about how to stamp out the "blood-sucking pests."

Toronto Public Health statistics show the number of bedbug cases in the city has skyrocketed from about 190 cases five years ago to almost 10 times that number now.