Pest exterminators say bedbugs are on the increase in North Dakota, but tenants of one Minot apartment building are relieved that treatment does work.
"I have been sleeping in my own bed," said Brian Neal, a resident of Henry Towers who spent six months sleeping in his car, living-room floor and bathtub to escape the bugs that now have been exterminated.
"I am comfortable. It just feels so good," Neal said.
Resident Dorothy Wagar said she finally is able to rest after repeatedly using bug sprays to try to rid her apartment of the insects.
Neal and Wagar said they appreciate that their landlord was willing to take care of a costly problem that wasn't his fault. The source of the bedbugs is unknown. Extermination was conducted earlier this month in a number of the 80 units in the low-income high-rise that serves elderly and disabled residents.
"We are very thankful and satisfied," Neal said.
Company reports 33.6 percent increase in bed-bug business
A nationwide pest control company has reported a 33.6 percent increase in bedbug business in 2011.
Orkin of Atlanta, one of seven pest control brands of Rollins, found Cincinnati to be its most active city last year, followed by Chicago, Detroit, Denver and Los Angeles.
The company encourages people to investigate before settling into college dorms, hotel rooms or other lodging facilities. Bedbugs are nocturnal and resemble apple seeds in size and color. Check mattress seams, sheets and furniture, behind baseboards, electrical outlet plates and picture frames for small reddish-brown spots and lightly-colored molted bedbug skins.
The National Pest Management Association observes April as National Pest Management Month.
Bedbugs were common in the United States until the widespread use of DDT during the 1940s and 1950s. With the elimination of DDT due to health dangers, bedbugs have been making a comeback.
"The bad news is the bedbugs are back, no matter where you live. The good news is there's a way to treat this that's very effective," said Stacy O'Reilly, owner of Plunkett's Pest Control, Minneapolis. Plunkett's has offices in Fargo and Bismarck.
"We are definitely getting more calls in North Dakota and all over the state. This isn't a big-city issue or a small-town issue. Wherever people travel to, it's possible these days for bedbugs to come with them," she said.
It's unlikely that the influx of people into northwestern North Dakota is a factor in the bedbug increase, she said. People have always traveled, and bedbugs are showing up everywhere, regardless of the level of human migration, she said.
"It was bound to happen whether or not you had the oil boom," she said. "There's not a state in our service territory that has avoided bedbugs."
"We are seeing an increase in this part of the country. Ten years ago it was mostly a problem out on the East Coast," said Dave Harris, remediation specialist at Guardian Pest Solutions of Duluth, Minn., which has done work in Minot. "Now we are seeing them everywhere. Bedbugs don't discriminate in where you live, your income level or background."
His company uses heat treatment, which kills bugs in all life stages, and follows up with chemical treatment in areas where heat may not have penetrated. Bugs don't flee the heat because it comes up so rapidly, he said.
Heat of 120 degrees that penetrates areas where the bugs have taken refuge will kill the creatures.
The development of heat equipment has been a major advancement in eradicating bedbugs that have been resistent to chemical attacks, O'Reilly said. Citing heat's effectiveness, she noted Plunkett's has had to go back and re-treat only two of more than 600 living quarters heat-treated since January in its 10-state region.
Currently, heat treatment is expensive and there's no shortcut that works as well, O'Reilly said. But that could change someday. She said there's a lot of creative thought going into new methods for using heat in cost effective ways.