Hamilton's John Sopinka Courthouse treated for bedbugs

A group of elusive suspects are on trial at Hamilton’s John Sopinka Courthouse: bedbugs.

'[Bedbugs] are in every urban environment now. The courthouse is no different than any other place'

Hamilton's John Sopinka Courthouse was treated for bedbugs last week after the insects were found in the vicinity of two courtrooms. (John Rieti/CBC)

A group of elusive suspects are on trial at Hamilton’s John Sopinka Courthouse: bedbugs.

The small, biting insects were discovered last week at two courtrooms in the courthouse, located at the corner of Main and John streets, CBC Hamilton learned.

The first suspected bedbug was discovered outside a courtroom on the 7th floor on March 11, according to Infrastructure Ontario (IO), a Crown corporation that oversees Ontario’s courthouses and other public realty.

[Bedbugs] are in every urban environment now. The courthouse is no different than any other place.- Susan Harding-Cruz, City of Hamilton health manager

Court proceedings were moved to a vacant courtroom “out of an abundance of caution,” IO said, and exterminators treated the courtroom on the same night.

“There was no disruption to court operations,” said Ian McConachie, a communications advisor with IO.

Then, over the weekend, all courtrooms on the 7th floor were inspected with a canine unit trained to detect bedbugs. The insects were found in one area of another courtroom, which was treated on Saturday.  

“The building will continue to be monitored to ensure the treatment was a success,” McConachie said.

He said it is unclear how many bedbugs were found. Under city bylaw, a property is considered to have a bedbug infestation when more than one such insect is present. 

Visitors, employees can take precaution

Bedbugs are oval-shaped, apple seed-sized insects that feed on both people and animal blood, typically at night, according to Hamilton's public health services. They don't fly, but they crawl and can hitch a ride on clothes, furniture and luggage. They can also survive up to six months after a singe blood meal.

There are 165 courthouses in Ontario, and there are no recent reports of bedbugs in any other locations, according to IO.

Adult and immature bedbugs are shown in this photo. (Tim McCoy/Virginia Tech Department of Entomology/Associated Press)

Reports of bedbugs at Hamilton’s courthouse didn’t surprise a city health expert, however.

“[Bedbugs] are in every urban environment now,” said Susan Harding-Cruz, manager of the vector borne disease program at Hamilton Public Health Services. “The courthouse is no different than any other place.”

Also, just because there are no reports of bedbugs from other courthouses, Harding-Cruz said, it doesn't mean the insects are not present there.

Although an itchy nuisance, bedbugs don’t transmit infectious diseases to humans. Some people, though, may get an allergic reaction due to bites.

Harding-Cruz said visitors and employees of the courthouse can take simple precautions to prevent the bugs from entering the courthouse or travelling home with them.

  • Bedbugs can be spotted with naked eyes. Kill them when you see them.
  • Never put your bags or luggage on the floor.
  • Check clothing and shoes for possible bedbugs.
  • Alert building staff if you spot possible bedbugs.