The Badger Herald
November 7th, 2013
Jamie Degraff

Bed bugs are biting in Madison as local pest control businesses are seeing increased reports of the tiny creatures living under people’s sheets and in their furniture.

Shane McCoy, spokesperson from Wil-Kil Pest Control in Sun Prairie, said the company has seen a recent increase in bed bugs throughout Madison and are now conducting upwards of four to five bed bug tests per week.

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McCoy said the lone food source for the pests is human blood. Like mosquitoes, bed bugs leave tiny, itchy bites scaling the body and can remain a “constant nuisance” for many homes in an area, McCoy said.

In addition to the physical bite marks, he said bedbugs are notorious for being “psychological pests” due to their societal stigma.

“When people have the infestation of bed bugs in their home, their first reaction is that they’re messy or unclean,” McCoy said. “The thing with bed bugs is that cleanliness has nothing to do with it and they can affect anybody.”

If someone does encounter the “unfortunate situation” of a bed bug infestation, Professional Pest Control General Manager Rick Freye emphasized the importance of immediately identifying the problem to begin addressing the issue.

“If we catch the infestation early enough, a spray treatment is very effective,” Freye said. “If it’s an infestation that’s been harboring and multiplying and gets deep into the structure, we would use thermal remediation heat treatments.”

When infestations are deep enough where heat exposure is required, McCoy said the temperature in a given room rises up to about 135 degrees Fahrenheit for six hours, which is enough to kill bed bugs, but not enough to damage any appliances such as gaming systems or computers.

Freye said people who travel frequently are at a higher risk, as bed bugs latch on to clothes and suitcases while in hotel rooms and taxis.

People should wash any used clothes prior to putting them back in closets when they come back home from a trip, to prevent the possibility of sparking an infestation, Freye said.

“You could pick them up at any time,” Freye said. “You just need to be proactive and keep a watch out for them and then deal with any problem immediately.”

McCoy added used furniture, such nightstands, mattresses and headboards found on the side of the road, is highly susceptible to accumulating masses of bed bugs and eggs.

He said one major obstacle in the way of improving the prevention of bed bugs is the general reluctance to spread awareness about the problem, whether it be for personal or financial reasons.

“Everybody’s just putting their head in the sand, whether it be apartment managers or owners,” McCoy said. “They don’t want to educate their tenants because they think it could stir up even more potential issues with bed bugs.”

He also said time will tell whether the growing bed bug problem in Madison will be met with increased awareness. However, in the meantime, both Freye and McCoy said they encourage the public to take precautionary measures.