Hawaii Exterminator Says Bedbugs Becoming An Epidemic

Published: Nov. 2, 2007 at 7:01 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 2, 2007 at 10:03 PM HST
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Carlton Agena
Carlton Agena

By Diane Ako

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite. It's been an old saying for decades, but lately, it's taken on new meaning. Bedbugs are becoming a big problem in Hawaii and across the country.

Terminix exterminator Carlton Agena says the bugs are not discriminating. "I've seen it at apartment buildings, 4 star hotels in Waikiki. I've seen it on all islands. Luxury homes. Youth hostels."

A bedbug is the size of an apple seed. In a mattress, it's very small. And it's a creating a big problem in the US. Agena says, "I would call it more an epidemic."

If you get bites or see stains on your furniture, you've got them. "You need to get a pest professional. You don't want to take care of this problem yourself," warns Agena.

Here's what you can do, according to Agena: "Get the bedding off the bed and put it in a plastic bag. And get it out of the house. Use the dryer. 100 degrees plus will kill the bugs."

With a little vigilance, you can keep your home safe from this nasty pest.

More information from Terminix about bedbugs:

What is a bedbug?

Bed bugs are small insects that lurk in the crevices of mattresses, box springs and furniture. They emerge at night to feed on the blood of their sleeping victims. While their bites are generally painless, they can leave behind red, itchy welts similar to a mosquito bite.

Why are bedbugs making a comeback?

Encounters with bed bugs used to be rare, but U.S. reports have increased significantly in recent years. One of the primary reasons for their resurgence is an increase in international travel. Although nearly eliminated in America following World War II, bed bugs remained prevalent in other countries, and now these pests are riding luggage back into the States.

How do they travel?

Small enough to stowaway in the cuff of a pair of pants, these hitchhikers can migrate by crawling into luggage and clothing that pass through high-traffic areas such as hotels, airplanes and cruise ships.

Are bedbugs a sign of unsanitary conditions?

Bed bugs aren't a reflection of cleanliness, as they have been found in even the swankiest of accommodations. Cluttered environments provide more locations for these pests to hide, but whether rich, poor, clean, or dirty; bed bugs are equal opportunity pests

Where have bedbugs been found?

Bedbug cases in the United States span the country and include nearly every state.

How can bedbugs be eliminated?

Bedbugs are virtually impossible to eliminate without the help of a professional. Bedbugs are often found in locations that make them difficult to detect. In addition to hiding on mattresses and box springs, their other favorite hiding spots include night stands, headboards, lamps, baseboards and even small openings in wallpaper. Pest control experts are trained in identifying these hiding spots and using highly specialized tools to treat bed bug infestations.

What tips can travelers use to protect themselves?

  • Check headboards, mattresses and box springs for bedbugs and the dark blood spots they leave behind.
  • Hang all clothing. Leave nothing lying on the bed or furniture.
  • Avoid unpacking clothing and storing them in the hotel's furniture drawers.
  • Don't allow your baggage to sit on the floor. Store it on a luggage rack as far from the bed as possible.
  • If you notice evidence of bedbugs, request another room or change hotels.
  • When returning home, leave luggage in the garage or basement until you are able to thoroughly inspect it for bedbugs.
  • Vacuum suitcases when returning from trips and immediately wash clothing in hot water.

What can homeowners do to protect themselves?

  • Inspect vintage furniture, antiques, used appliances or consignment items for signs of bedbugs before purchasing or bringing into the home.
  • Never pick up used mattresses or furniture left curbside.
  • Inspect and wash (in warm water) previously-worn clothing that has been donated or purchased.
  • Quarantine infested items. Moving them within the home can spread the problem.
  • Use zippered encasements on infested mattresses and box springs.
  • If you suspect you have bedbugs, have your home inspected by a trained professional. Bedbugs can not be controlled by over-the-counter treatments and will require the assistance of a pest control operator.