The number of bedbug cases in Anchorage has been dramatically increasing over the past few years, according to Eagle Pest Control owner Randy Beuter.
“That would be an understatement,” he said. The problem extends to bedbugs and scabies. Scabies and bedbugs are two separate things, according to Beuter, but similar in the result.
“Scabies are a mite that burrow into your skin,” he explained.
They are transferred by close- proximity contact. Bedbugs, however, actually move from one source of heat to another.
“Bedbugs are extreme hitchhikers. They are the best hitchhikers in the bug world,” said Beuter.
As the spring semester started for the UAA community, North Hall and a few Main Apartment Complexes (MAC) found themselves victims of the expanding bedbug population. An unconfirmed number of rooms are hosting the nighttime visitors.
Debra Lovaas, the Director of Housing, confirmed that UAA currently has a bedbug issue, but stressed it was “not an outbreak.”
“Once we learn that there is a bedbug problem in any one area, we isolate it right away,” Lovaas said, declining to give further comment.
This is not the first time UAA dorm rooms have met with the nighttime crawlers. Phil Schmidt, a history major, experienced the discomfort of bedbugs in the form of scabies when they arrived at his North Hall dorm room in Fall 2010. A friend noticed the bites first, after hanging out with Schmidt in his room.
“He started getting a bunch of weird bumps on his body on his back. He said they were really itchy,” Schmidt said.
Not long after, Schmidt and his roommate started scratching at their own hands and arms.
“We’re pretty sure it was from the couches that were there from the previous year.
Anybody who sat there got them,” Schmidt stated. They went to the Residence Assistance within their building, but when no help came the boys quickly moved into action.
“We took the couches out late at night and replaced them with couches from the common area,” Schmidt explained carefully.
“We went to the RA and they wouldn’t do anything, so that’s why we took matters into our own hands and traded them out ourselves,” he stated, defending his actions.
The key to first detecting the bugs are similar to Schmidt’s method.
“Usually the first thing that tips people off is that they are being bitten at night, maybe while in your bedroom or on your couch,” Beuter stated. The next step is looking for small streaks of excrement around the bed frame and mattress. But the bed is not the only place to look.
Beuter emphasizes that bedbugs love the dark and one needs to check curtains, laundry, picture frames, and even books to find the insects. “We found bedbugs in Bibles twice now,” he added.
His company specializes in heat treatments to get rid of the bugs, blasting spaces up to temperatures of 114 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Such methods have been witnessed at MAC Apartments over the past week.
“It’s really not recommended that people try to treat bedbugs themselves,” Beuter stressed. He also warns people not to use pesticides, citing the death of woman who killed herself from overuse of the poisonous substance. “If I did it, it would be a felony,” he said about spraying a mattress.
The incident at UAA reflects an overall rise in the prevalence of bedbugs in Alaska and the nation.
In late 2010, members of the national Legislature met in Washington, DC for the First Congressional Bed Bug Forum. The federal government set aside 50 million dollars at the forum to combat the spread of bedbugs, intended to last through 2013. The pandemic was declared in all 50 states, however, leaving only one million dollars per state each year. Beuter and other exterminators in the state were not happy.
“We’re not getting any co-ordination and guidance from the state,” Beuter said frustrated with the lack of government cooperation. “The more people have them, the more it spreads.”
Other states have attempted to control the spread of the insects since the forum. The Ohio Department of Health created an Ohio Bed Bug Workgroup that made recommendations to the Ohio Governor and Legislature in early 2011. Similar plans are underway in Virginia.