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Bedbugs on rise in Canadian cities: survey

But local expert says increase not as high as report suggests

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Bedbug infestations are on the rise in Canadian cities including Winnipeg, a survey has found.

A survey done by COMPAS research on behalf of Abell Pest Control questioned 67 public health inspectors and found reports of bedbugs increased eight per cent annually on average during the last three years.

Shaun Jeffrey, the Winnipeg branch manager for Abell, said the rise of bedbugs can be linked to ignorance about them.

"A lot of people don't understand or don't know how to deal with the pest (or) what the pest is about," Jeffrey said.

The key to reducing the infestation is teaching the public about preventative measures.

"They could be monthly inspections, they could be the use of canines, they could be training for hotel or property management," he said.

"It's having those controls in place to... take care of them when they're initially found," he said.

The other problem is not reacting quickly enough when bedbugs are spotted, Jeffrey said.

Early treatment is important because bedbugs can move on to nearby areas, he said.

"The longer it takes to get in there to get into the situation, the harder it is to treat. A female bedbug can lay 500 eggs in a month," he said.

City of Winnipeg entomologist Taz Stuart also said prevention is key to lowering the number of infestations. Education is also important, he said, as people tend to misidentify the bug or where it can hide.

Bedbugs, which are oval-shaped and four to five millimetres in length, are parasitic insects that feed on blood. They are active at night and feed on their hosts without being noticed.

Dave Funk, chairman of the province's bedbug co-ordination committee, said bedbug infestations in Manitoba and Winnipeg are not increasing as rapidly as the study suggests.

"I don't see a lot of increase anymore, but I still see that we're still dealing extensively with them, in Winnipeg anyway. But it's not growing exponentially like it was three, four years ago," he said.

What people shouldn't do, Funk said, is hide the fact they have bedbugs.

"It's OK to talk about bedbugs. People think they might be perceived as dirty... but if we don't talk about it, the bedbugs will continue to proliferate and we'll deal with the pest for decades to come," he said.

Funk said the province offers several programs, including educational tools and a service that helps people who might not be able to prepare their apartment for treatment.

 

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 B2

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Updated on Friday, July 19, 2013 at 8:38 AM CDT: adds fact box

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