Local company combating bedbug comeback
Jim Bennett may be the closest thing to a support group for homeowners infested with bedbugs.
“I’ve talked with hundreds and hundreds of people who have bedbugs,” he said. “I’ve talked to them about how they got them and what they’ve done to try to get rid of them.
“Their stories can just be heart wrenching. I talked to people who don’t want to go out or visit their children because they don’t want to spread the infestation.”
The bedbug victims find Bennett through his company’s website, thepestdepot.com. When they call the Pest Depot, they find a real person on the other side of the line.
“It helps when people finally talk to someone,” Bennett said. “I don’t talk so much as listen and ask questions. I really get after what is going on there.”
His interviews and related research have Bennett anything from optimistic about checking the spread of bedbugs. They may not be the problem in northeast Kansas that they are in New York City, Ohio, North Carolina, Chicago or Denver, but the pests are on their way, he said.
Hotels and motels are often viewed as behind the spread of bedbugs, and Bennett estimates more the half are or have had an infestation in some of their rooms and recommends travelers check out motels and hotels at such Internet sites as bedbugregistry.com. But normal social functions should be a greater concern, he said.
“Think about your typical holiday party where the host gathers the guests’ coats and throws them on a bed,” he said. “That breaks all the rules. The best thing I can think of to compare it to is sexually transmitted diseases — you’re in contact not only with another person but everybody that person has been in contact with.”
Several things make bedbugs hard to detect and eliminate, Bennett said. The bugs are both small — eggs are microscopic, newly hatched bedbugs are the size of a period on this page and adults grow as big as small to medium-sized ticks — and shy. The pests come out of hiding places only to bite and feed on blood before scurrying back to the crevices, nooks and crannies where they live and breed. They only become active when they detect the presence of warm-blooded mammals through carbon dioxide and body heat.
The bugs also can survive in suspended animation for six months to a year.
It was that last ability, with the banning of such long-lasting pesticides as DDT, which accounts for the resurgence of bedbugs, Bennett said. Bedbugs can simply hide away, shut down and outlast the effects of current pesticides, he said.
Those factors make the further spread of bedbugs inevitable and will require individuals be active to prevent the infestation of their homes, Bennett said. And his company is giving them the tools.
The Pest Depot, 725 Laming Rd., carries a variety of products to help prevent, check for and kill bedbugs, Bennett said. Items include such things as plastic bags for clothing, luggage and personal items while traveling, insecticides and monitors. The company already markets travel and eradication kits and will soon offer monitoring kits.
Bennett got in the bedbug business through his company’s earlier marketing of products to control pests associated with household plants, which itself grew from the floral and crafts side of his business. He estimates bedbug-related items now account for half the sales of the pest control side of the business.
And it’s likely to be a growth business as bedbugs spread. To cope, Bennett advises awareness and changes in behavior (for example, leave coats in the car and don’t take them into such things as church coatrooms and wash and dry all clothing taken into a hotel room before returning them to your home).
Bennett also sees a future for monitoring devices, some elaborate and some passive and simple, that will reveal the presence of the pests before homeowners have full-scale infestations.
Eradicating infestations is expensive and labor intensive, requiring people to check and bag all clothes and clutter in their homes or apartments and repeated applications of insecticide, Bennett said. That required personal involvement makes do-it-yourself eradication efforts a legitimate option, if done right.
“The worst thing you can do on seeing a bedbug is go buy a fogger,” he said. “It’s ineffective and makes them scurry to other areas.
“Read about bedbugs. You have to know what you are doing.”
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