Local News

Triangle pest experts tackle growing bedbug problem

Posted June 8, 2011 4:48 p.m. EDT
Updated June 8, 2011 6:32 p.m. EDT

— Pest control experts from across the state met Wednesday to discuss a growing number of bedbug infestations in North Carolina, and what can be done to rid homes and businesses of the tiny, parasitic insects.

Bedbug eradication, which can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500 in a typical home, is very difficult, in part because the bugs have built up a resistance to many pesticides, experts say. Mature bedbugs are only about the size of apple seeds and they get into small crevices and mattresses.

The Triangle is among the top 25 metropolitan areas in the country that have exploding bedbug problems.

"As a resident of North Carolina, you want to be worried," said Dr. Jung Kim, an environmental senior specialist in public health pest management for the N.C. Division of Environmental Health. "You want to be alarmed that it's possible that you may get bedbugs in your home."

Donnie Shelton, the owner of Triangle Pest Control in Raleigh, said the number of bedbug calls he's gotten in the last year has quadrupled.

"Before it was a major problem and now it's an extremely big problem," Shelton said.

Shelton's company uses a special heat treatment, which sets up rooms like convections ovens and cranks the heat to 150 degrees, which he says no pest can survive. Other pest control companies use toxic chemicals to kill the bugs.

"It's a very icky situation," said Devin Payne, a property manager at an undisclosed apartment complex in the Triangle.

Payne said treating his apartment community has cost more than $5,000.

"So many people don't realize the epidemic that we're dealing with and that's exactly what it is," Payne said. "For months, we've battled this."

One reason they spread so quickly throughout the apartment community, Payne said, is because they reproduce very rapidly.

"I guess we should change the saying from rabbits to bedbugs," he said.

Some experts predict that bedbug infestations may even increase as people take their summer vacations.

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think we're going to see a spike in it as travel goes on," said Dr. Michael Waldvogel, an entomologist at North Carolina State University.

At Wednesday's conference in Research Triangle Park, experts advised anyone with a potential bedbug infestation to have a professional inspection from a pest management company as soon as possible. 

It's not a do-it-yourself problem, experts said, nor is it isolated to North Carolina. Pest control experts all over the country have reported increases of bedbug outbreaks.

In February, the federal government held a bedbug summit and established a workgroup to come up with best practices for communities battling bedbug problems.