Greencastle next stop for bedbugs

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

A few years ago Waynesboro was in the news for reports of bedbugs. Last year it was Chambersburg, with the critters spreading out through a downtown apartment complex. Now they are in Greencastle.

Kevin Tharp, owner of Pest Patrol, is puzzled. "I don't know what's going on."

He received several calls for Greencastle in recent weeks. As best he can decipher, some outbreaks were traced back to adult daycare programs. But the nocturnal insects can come from anywhere, and jump a ride to the next home.

"They are hitchhikers," said Mike Brady, Gladhill Pest Control property services specialist.

Bedbugs were headline news when they were discovered in multiple high-class New York City hotels. People became concerned about traveling. The parasitic bugs hide in clothing, luggage, mattresses, zippers, automobiles or any mode of transportation, therefore making just about anyone susceptible to becoming a host.

Prevention and early detection are key to keeping them at bay, said Brady.

He recommended vigilance in checking the seams of mattresses and dark areas within six feet of where people sleep, especially in hotel rooms. Evidence of bedbug presence would be tiny black or red spots. If someone became the source of a meal, the sign would be an allergic reaction on the skin (typically the arms, face, and neck, which are usually kept outside the bed covers).

"Not everyone shows the bites," cautioned Tharp.

Older people with less-sensitive skin, or people on certain medications might not exhibit the allergy to the anti-coagulant in the bug's venom. Therefore, by the time the bedbugs were seen in the bed itself, the infestation would be established, he added.

Tharp brings a dog to the site to sniff out the bugs. Their pheromes carry a scent. Then he uses commercial products to get rid of the offenders. Since females could lay five eggs a day, and 500 in a lifetime, Brady also recommended professional help if a home was infested.

He said with assurance that bedbugs were actually easy to kill. The heat from a hot water wash or dryer would take care of them. The nesting sites would also have to be treated, and insecticides worked for that.

Prevention is key, but can take some work. "Be careful but don't be paranoid," said Brady.

Tharp suggested laundering bedding and vacumming carpets weekly. After visiting public places such as theaters and school events, wash the clothes. Line the hamper with a plastic bag; on wash day close the bag and carry it to the laundry room, then toss the clothes right into the washer and throw the bag away. Leave shoes in the garage or entryway. Wash newly-purchased clothes, whether from consignment or department stores, before wearing.

Steve Bogash, regional horticulture educator for Penn State Extension, does not typically deal with bedbugs, but he had trained exterminators on treatments.

"So far I haven't had any calls from the public, but that's not the kind of thing people will brag about either."