FactFinder 12: Battle Of The Bed Bugs
By Brian Heap KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
8:34 p.m. CST, November 9, 2010
(WICHITA, Kan.) —
Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite. It used to be a phrase moms would jokingly utter to their children at bedtime. Now, it takes a more literal meaning with the resurgence of bed bugs in the U.S.
Bed bugs are creeping into hotels and motels from the roadsides of rural Kansas to the penthouses of Park Avenue. According to exterminator Ed Meis, it doesn't matter how clean a place is, or what kind of steps it takes to keep the pests away. "It's just a matter of if you travel or if you interact with the world you stand a chance of getting them," he said.
Experts attribute the comeback of bed bugs to an increase in international travel combined with changes in the way pesticides are used. Bed bugs are hitchhikers that crawl into a suitcase or attach to a traveler's clothing. Then they nuzzle into a mattress and wait for their next meal to lie down.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture is supposed to check for bed bugs during routine inspections of 825 licensed hotels, motels and bed and breakfast homes, or whenever a consumer makes a formal complaint. But FactFinder 12 Investigators learned that's not happening right now because of state budget cuts.
Agriculture Department statistics show there were 35 complaints of bed bugs statewide in 2009. 11 of those cases were confirmed. But of the 31 complaints made this year, none has been confirmed because no inspectors have been sent to look.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said until recently the lodging fee account that funds the inspection program was depleted. Money is slowly being put back into the fund as more facilities get first time licenses, pay overdue fees, or pay annual end of the year licensing fees.
In a statement to FactFinder 12, spokesperson Lisa Taylor writes:
"We will start (eliminating the backlog of complaints) with facilities that have had multiple complaints involving imminent health hazards (which includes bed bugs). Complaint-based inspection will increase as more license fees are paid during the regular end-of-year license renewal. Because we know that lodging license fees will not generate enough money to pay for a full inspection program, and possibly not even enough to respond to all complaints, we will continue to work with the Kansas Legislature to resolve the funding shortfall."
Until the inspection program is fully operational, hotels and motels are policing themselves for bed bugs. FactFinder 12 spoke with general managers from three different Wichita hotels. All said they take the threat of bed bugs seriously and are working to educate their staffs and guests about the critters. All said their housekeepers undergo special training to help them identify signs of bed bugs.
Experts say there are several things you should know about bed bugs:
If a place has bed bugs, it doesn't necessarily mean it's dirty or unsanitary. Bed bugs are not attracted to food or garbage like roaches or other insects.
Bed bug bites are harmless. They're a nuisance but they don't spread diseases. People react differently to bed bug bites and some may develop a rash.
There is nothing a hotel can do to prevent bed bugs. They are hitchhiking pests brought into the hotel in a travelers suitcase or clothing.
Bed bugs will colonize within a 15 foot area of the bed. They can be found in the mattress, box spring, along the base of a wall, behind headboards and in nightstands.