Bed bugs strike P.E.I.

They are the subject of a lawsuit in California, and Prince Edward Island has not been immune to the return of bed bugs as a serious problem in North America.

They arethe subject of a lawsuit in California, and Prince Edward Island has not been immune to the return of bed bugs as a serious problem in North America.

The tiny, blood-sucking insects were all but wiped out in North America in the 1950s, largely through the use of DDT, but the pest continued to thrive in other parts of the world. In the last few years, an increase in international travel and more cautious use of chemical pesticides have led to a resurgence of the bug.

Charlottetown's 4½-star Delta Hotel was victim to an infestation last year.
Hotel manager Michael Bird found bed bugs are hard to get rid of. ((Bill van Asperen/CBC))

"We discovered them— unfortunately, it was reactive— because a customer complained about having itch and bites," said hotel manager Michael Bird.

"We reacted to that and it was a first for us. We immediately called in our pest control services and began to take some action."

Bird discovered getting rid of bed bugs is not as easy as calling pest control. Before declaring the room free of pests, they threw out the mattress and box spring not just once, but twice.

"We did do it twice. Our problem was limited to one room, but we took all the precautions and we couldn't kill them," said Bird.

"Even though it wasn't recommended, we felt we had to go to the nth degree to make sure they didn't come back."

Cleaning no help with bed bugs

As the experience at the Delta Prince Edward shows, bed bug problems are not exclusive to squalid tenements.

Proper cleaning has no effect in preventing bed bugs. All they need to survive is a place to hide and human blood. Adults can survive for up to a year without a meal, and they can easily hitch a ride in suitcases to spread from anywhere to anywhere.

They are not even limited to beds. They can thrive in theatre seats, buses, airplanes— anywhere they might occasionally find a meal.

The Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. has warned operators in its latest newsletter to be on the lookout for bed bugs. Local pest control companies confirm that they are becoming far more common on the Island, and not just in tourist accommodations. They're infesting private homes as well.
Bed bugs like to hide in the crevices of mattresses and box springs. ((Bill van Asperen/CBC))

Frank Legault of P.E.I. Pest Control said his company has dealt with 30 calls for bed bugs in the last three weeks.

"It is very surprising to me, because when I first came on Prince Edward Island in 1972, we had about one or three calls a year," said Legault.

"You can see the difference now, and it is a problem."

Bites from bed bugs are usually the first sign of an infestation. The reddish-brown bugs are only 0.6 centimetres long and come out in the dark, so are very difficult to spot. Bites develop into itchy, red welts, which can take up to a day after the attack to show up.

It is very unusual for bed bugs to transmit diseases, so while they are extremely annoying, they are not considered a health risk.