Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay bedbug infestation 'severe'

A health inspector calls the bed bug infestation in a Thunder Bay apartment complex the worst he's ever seen, and says the problem extends far beyond that one building's walls.

Thunder Bay District Health Unit, local exterminator say bedbugs now a big problem

Doug Rondeau pulls an insecticide sprayer from the back of his truck. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

A health inspector calls the bedbug infestation in a Thunder Bay apartment complex the worst he's ever seen, and says the problem extends far beyond that one building`s walls.

Inspectors with the District Health Unit were called to an apartment building on Court Street in mid August. The owners had apartments in the building fumigated, but public health inspector Etrick Blackburn said his office is still receiving between three and five calls a day from the same address, a six-storey residential building that houses many seniors and disabled individuals.

"I've been a health inspector for 16 years and I've never seen it that bad," Blackburn said. "So, this was an eye-opener for me."

Residents of Cornwall Court are not alone.

A local exterminator with Canada Pest Control said bedbugs are thriving in Thunder Bay because of a ban on certain pesticides.

The oily product Doug Rondeau used 20 years ago killed the pest quickly — but he's not allowed to use it any more.

"So we're using water-based products, which are more environmentally friendly, but seem like they're more friendly to bedbugs as well," he said.

Rondeau said it can take multiple visits to clean a home or apartment with the newer pesticides, and this gives bedbugs time to travel to another location.

"Twenty years ago we'd have one or two calls per year," he said. "[Now] it's blown out of proportion, so that we get five or six calls every day."

‘Elusive’ and ‘hardy’

Rondeau said the insecticide he's allowed to use will kill the bugs — but not their eggs, which is why exterminators have to go back for multiple treatments before the problem is solved.

"They're really elusive. Bedbugs are hardy," he continued. "If you have a heavy infestation, it's not unusual to go back two, maybe even three times. There are a couple buildings in town that have been neglected ... and, as a result, this is what you run into."

The problem isn't just in homes, either. Bedbugs can be found on planes, buses or taxis, he added.

"There's just so many of them around these days. It's like fishing in a barrel, almost. Almost anybody can get these things."

"Bedbugs are coming back with a revenge, right across North America," Blackburn said. "So, I wouldn't rule it out in Thunder Bay."

Despite the fact that bedbugs are nocturnal creatures, Blackburn said he saw several hundred crawling around the Court Street building during the day.

"It means there's a severe infestation problem … if you do see them during the day," he said. "That signifies that we have a big problem."