Ottawa

Bedbug infestations: 4 takeaways from an expert

The blood-sucking pests have been spotted at government buildings across the country including offices in Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.

CBC Radio's Ontario Today spoke to an exterminator about the tiny pests

Bedbugs have been found in government office buildings across Canada, including ones in Ottawa and Gatineau. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

For Toronto exterminator Dylan Aiello, eliminating bedbugs from office buildings is a particularly insidious challenge.

The blood-sucking pests have been spotted at government buildings across the country, including offices in Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg, according to the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

The federal workers' union has been urging the government to step up its eradication efforts, from letting sniffer dogs do their thing in bug-ridden buildings to teaching workers how to identify and report any problems.

"The issue with office buildings is ... there's no place where people are sleeping or sitting or resting. It's usually very bright, people are most active during the day, they're a lot more empty at nighttime," Aiello said.

"Bedbugs will be wandering around in a way that is a lot different than how they would behave in a normal domestic environment."

Aiello was Wednesday's guest on CBC Radio's Ontario Today, where he shared both his expertise on how to deal with bedbugs and his sympathy with those living with infestations.

Here are four big takeaways.

Bedbugs have been confirmed in ten federal government buildings across Canada including Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto. Union leaders are calling for a national strategy. When did a critter get the best of you at work? 51:38

1. They spread easily

If you work in a building where bedbugs have been spotted, you'll want to have a change of clothes handy, Aiello said.

His advice is to shimmy out of your work clothes after you leave work but before you crash on your couch — perhaps by changing on the porch, for example. 

That way, if the work clothes have been contaminated, at least you're not bringing bedbugs into the house.

Keep your work clothes on the porch, Aiello said, or seal them inside an airtight container and bring them inside. It's also a good idea to do a "quick visual inspection" of shoes, bags and purses.

"It's a small daily inconvenience to save yourself potentially a large expense."

2. They don't care how clean you are

It's a "common misconception" that bedbug infestations are more likely to be found in homes that are dirty or messy, Aiello said.

"They have nothing to do with cleanliness," he said. "We've been in the least-cluttered, cleanest homes you can imagine, with thousands of bedbugs on the bottom of a mattress."

That said, the less clutter a home has, the easier they are to spot, Aiello said.

"Changing your sheets more often, flipping up your bed a couple of times a year — you're going to spot them if they're there."

The Jeanne Mance Building at the Tunney's Pasture government complex in Ottawa is just one of the many federal buildings across Canada where bedbugs have been reported recently. (CBC)

3. They're not always bedbugs

The bedbug has a common doppleganger, Aiello said.

Carpet beetle larvae are one of the most frequently encountered pests Aiello deals with, and while they resemble bedbugs, they're actually a completely different creature.

The tiny larvae chew on discarded skin cells, hair follicles or other protein-rich organic matter, Aiello said. As they do that, they shed their own wiry skin — and it's the friction from that skin that causes red marks similar to those left by bedbug bites.

"That's something people should be aware of, too — not to raise the alarm as soon as they see any kind of small insect."

4. It's time to end the stigma

For Aiello, confronting the stigma around bedbugs in workplaces is "priority number one."

When it comes to high-traffic locations like government buildings, doctors' offices, schools or mass transit systems, a bedbug infestation is going to happen sooner or later, he said.

That's why Aiello believes employers should be displaying messaging about the pests in the same way they'd share health and safety protocols or tell workers what to do in case of a fire.

Unfortunately, that's not happening as often as it should.

"People don't want to hear about bedbugs," Aiello said, "until it's already too late."

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