Manitoba

Bedbugs biting all over Winnipeg

Bedbugs have been a problem for Winnipeg's Manitoba Housing complexes for years, but bugs don't discriminate and now they're invading every corner of Winnipeg.

Bedbugs have been a problem for Winnipeg's Manitoba Housing complexes for years, but bugs don't discriminate and now they're invading every corner of Winnipeg.

A decade ago, Terry Galloway, an entomologist at the University of Manitoba, used to get three calls a year about bedbugs. Today, he's answering more than three a month and said the bugs are here to stay unless they are dealt with professionally.

Bedbugs feed on human blood, but don't transmit any known blood-borne diseases. Serious infections can result, however, if people scratch the bitten areas, and their saliva can trigger allergic reactions. Health officials consider them to be a nuisance, and infestations can be distressing.

Galloway said the situation is becoming a serious problem, adding that he's seen some larger apartment buildings in the city where 80 per cent of the suites are infested with bedbugs.

Large apartment blocks are hard to treat because exterminators have to spray practically everything, Galloway noted, adding that many people get rid of their infested furniture but end up transporting the bugs and bringing them back when they return.

"People transport the bugs around more frequently than they used to," said Galloway. "In used furniture, especially used beds — but they can also be in other articles and other furniture as well."

Winnipeg exterminator Don Poulin owns Poulin's Exterminators and said the city's current infestation is beyond anything he's ever seen.

He links the growing bed bug infestation to the federal government's decision four years ago to ban the powerful chemical pesticide diazinon. 

"You can't have a material that's going to work for you a little longer so you have to do things, you know, two or three times where you used to do it once," said Poulin.

Galloway agrees, and said other methods are effective, but they don't possess the residual killing power of diazinon.

Poulin warns the infestation will only continue to grow, especially as big-box stores pull the chemicals off shelves and provincial governments implement more stringent bans on chemical pesticides.

"There's still a lot of the old chemicals out, but as you tighten up with what you're going to use or if you can use anything, yes, there will be an outbreak of other insects."

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