From the Pasadena Star News.
A childhood rhyme has become a reality for many in the Pasadena area, with a significant rise in bedbugs reported by many local exterminators and apartment operators.
The problem has been growing in the past few years, they said, but it is only getting worse. And locals should be extra vigilant, as the prevalence of the apple seed-sized bugs will only grow as we enter the summer months.
“They have just exploded, and now they are everywhere,” said Michael Zerebko, district manager for the Los Angeles-area branch of Western Exterminators. “We get bedbug calls all year-round, but more in the summer. They just get more active.”
The rise in bedbugs, he added, can also be attributed to an increase in travel, especially during summer vacation season.
Jesus Urritia, a chief environmental specialist for Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said the department gets more than 400 reports of bedbugs annually, and they’re already on track to exceed that figure this year.
Zerebko said he gets 25 to 40 calls each week from Los Angeles area residents for bedbugs. Ed Romero, service manager for Community Pest Control, said he gets two calls a week in Pasadena, and multiple calls and emails daily from residents of other cities asking for bedbug treatments. Sam Makhani, technical director for Dewey Pest Control, said his company sees 8 to 12 customers a month in Pasadena and up to 20 for other cities.
And Romero said the problem hasn’t even peaked yet.
“Bedbugs are probably just under termites and roaches; they are probably in the top three right now,” he said. “We’ve found them everywhere. Sometimes people will think it has to do with sanitation or wealth, but it doesn’t.”
The issue has become an increasing irritation for apartment operators, who have the responsibility of cleaning up the mess, especially when it spreads to more than one unit, said Finley Beven, of Beven and Brock apartments, which operates 2,500 apartment units in Pasadena, Arcadia, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Altadena. The company now requires tenants to have a cover on their mattress, but even that doesn’t solve the problem, Beven said.
“It’s a tough one,” Beven said. “The worst thing to do is do nothing or blame the tenant.”
Pasadena Department of Public Health Director Eric Walsh said his department rarely hears about bedbugs because it is more of an issue between landlords and tenants. If there is an issue so severe that it gets reported to Public Health, he said, the department will send one of its nurses and an environmental specialist to assess the situation.
“Bedbugs make their run every now and again, but a lot of times people look to private doctors and exterminators and we may not know,” Walsh said.
Zerebko said the most difficult thing about bedbugs is getting rid of them. They are not carriers of disease, he said, and some people don’t even have a reaction to their bites, but “they’re very good at hiding,” and can easily come back even after a residence is treated. And, he said, they spread easily, jumping on human hosts, bus seats or even crawling through wall sockets from apartment to apartment.
“They are hitchhikers, they are always transported into an environment,” Zerebko said. “We’re going to all have to be conscious of the issue.”
To prevent bedbugs, Zerebko said people should avoid picking up furniture from the side of the road, and should always inspect mattresses, tables or other furniture they buy from any store. When staying in hotels, always inspect under the mattress for the bugs, which can vary from the size of the head of a pin to an eraser head, and when coming home from a trip always unpack outside and wash and dry clothes at high temperatures.
If the critters do get into a residence, they can be eradicated with a heat or chemical treatment or, if the problem is bad enough, with fumigation. Zerebko also has the help of Western Exterminators’ trusty bedbug sniffing dog, Honey.
In the end, he said, the problem seems to be here to stay, so people should be on the lookout if they want to continue to sleep tight.
“The little rhyme about the bedbugs biting has kind of come full circle,” he said.
More information on bedbugs can be found at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/bedbugs.htm.