Bed bug infestations found in Paris during Fashion Week have raised fears that travelers are spreading the insects, but exterminators in Canada say they are already enough of a problem here that people bringing them home from France should not. be a concern.
Kurtis Brown, an entomologist with pest control company Orkin Canada, says the company deals with these invasive critters daily, so while they may be a concern for people traveling to Paris, “we have our own populations very high residents in our country. cities and towns at this time.”
An annual Orkin Canada list of cities with the highest number of bed bug infestations over the past year, based on the number of treatments performed by the company, showed that 15 of the 25 cities were in Ontario.
Unsurprisingly, Toronto and Vancouver topped the list. Brown says larger cities tend to have the biggest bed bug problems because there are more nearby hosts for the insects to travel to.
Because bed bugs typically feed on humans, Brown says they are usually found anywhere we tend to congregate and spend time, including apartment buildings, trains, airplanes, movie theaters, and office buildings.
Calling a pest control company to perform an inspection and treatment is the first thing Brown recommends to anyone who encounters bed bugs. However, for many this is not an affordable option.
‘I don’t go to people’s houses anymore’
For the past five years, Juan Balandra says he has been complaining to his landlord about bed bugs infesting the apartment he shares with a roommate in Hamilton.
The apartment has been fumigated twice by pest control specialists, but he says the bugs always come back. After consulting with neighbors, Balandra, who is a member of the tenant advocacy group ACORN, says she believes the entire building needs treatments or fumigation to address the persistent problem.
“I don’t go to people’s houses anymore because I’m afraid of bringing bedbugs,” she said. “I don’t invite anyone to my house… I’m always controlling myself, I’m always paranoid.”
Moving is not an option for Balandra, who pays $918 a month in rent. Neither is paying a pest control company out of pocket to treat the entire building. Instead, she says she spends up to $90 each month on sprayable insecticides to try to keep the blood-sucking insects at bay.
While bed bugs are not linked to any known medical problems, other than recent research indicating that they produce a large amount of histamine that could be harmful: they can cause significant mental health problems.
“Sometimes infestations can last longer than anyone would like and that can take a toll,” Brown said. “Some people have sleep loss, high levels of anxiety, increased stress, and those things lead to negative health outcomes.”
That’s something Balandra can attest to.
“It affects my work, it affects my social life, it affects how I feel about myself.”
Dogs, vacuum cleaners, insecticides and heat
When a pest control team arrives at a bed bug infestation, Brown says they first assess the magnitude of the problem. When the human eye is not enough, dogs trained to sniff out insects are sometimes called in.
Once insects are found, pest control specialists use tools such as HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners, insecticides, and heat treatments that can kill insects at all stages of development.
For people whose owners may turn a blind eye to bed bug infestations, Brown says your first course of action should be to tidy up the sleeping area to better detect the insects, which are about the size of ladybugs or apple seeds.
“Sometimes they can use simple tools like vacuum cleaners to physically remove many insects,” Brown said. He advises anyone planning to use pesticide treatments on their own to always read the product label.
He says some home treatments, if done incorrectly, can make the problem worse by moving the bugs to a different area of the house.