Bedbug battle rattles residents in the Valley

For more than a year, Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority has been fighting bedbugs at its properties in Warren

Bed bugs are a problem at county housing in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

Ohio (WKBN) – All across the Mahoning Valley, bedbugs are moving into private homes, hotels and public housing. And once these pests come in, they’re very hard to get out.

For more than a year, the Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority has been fighting bedbugs at its properties in Warren. Residents invited WKBN Investigates in to see just how hard it is to fight against the creepy critters.

The hard part is that residents can’t leave their homes while the treatments continue, and many say they’re afraid to visit family for fear of spreading the bugs.

“You are isolated at that point. Your family doesn’t want to come and visit you, and you can’t visit them because they are in fear of catching the bugs that you got,” said Dale Bowling, a resident at TMHA apartments. “It’s like a plague.”

Bedbugs are tiny creatures. They range in size from a grain of rice to about as big as a popcorn kernel.

But they pack an oversized bite, and they never come alone.

It takes bedbugs about a week to hatch new eggs. So within days, one or two bedbugs become dozens and then hundreds.

They hide in the seams of mattresses and on shoes. They can spread from apartment to apartment like wildfire.

Bowling first noticed the critters in his Riverview Tower apartment about a year ago. He says TMHA has sprayed his apartment for bedbugs a few times. After a handful of sprayings, he says he gets some relief, for a little while.

“After that, you’re bug-free until you encounter them again. You pick them up in your feet,” he said.

Rick Boggs also lives in the Riverview building. Even after repeated sprayings, he’s still finding live bugs in his bed.

“I’m sweeping this stuff up, and it’s like dark popcorn kernels, and you know, I just swept it all up, threw it away, and the next morning I’m thinking, ‘Them were probably bedbugs,'” he said.

Staff at TMHA confirmed that they’ve started a bedbug management plan. They wouldn’t say how many apartments are being treated or how long the problem has existed, but people from other buildings say there have been problems there as well.

It isn’t just a problem with TMHA housing, though. Bedbugs are spreading all across the Valley, according to Michael Church, who works for Grace Exterminating.

“You get them on your clothes and you take them home. You have people come over to your house, and they leave them on your couch, and the next thing you know, you have a bedbug problem,” he said.

Church says his company has seen a big increase over the last few years. They’re now doing bedbug jobs almost every day — up from one or two a month.

Church says the best way to get rid of bedbugs isn’t just spraying; it’s heat.

WKBN followed along with Grace Exterminating crews during a bedbug treatment. The bugs are sprayed and then torched with high, sustained heat at 120 degrees for several hours. That will kill every bedbug, egg and larva in the room in one swoop.

“Cost is the biggest negating factor in doing it the best way, because bed bug treatment is expensive,” Church said.

Exterminators say bedbugs can live up to 18 months without feeding, hiding in cracks and crevices from the poison. Just spraying means repeat applications taking place over a year or more, and in the meantime, people have to live with the bugs.

Many public buildings and large apartment complexes have issues with bedbugs, but they aren’t considered a danger to public health, according to Youngstown City Health Commissioner Erin Bishop.

“It is a nuisance, but it’s not a hazard because bedbugs don’t spread disease,” Bishop said.

Bowling said it’s something that he wants to avoid at all costs, however.

“When you’re woken up by a bug biting you, you become very distraught, and I have trouble sleep as it is,” he said. “So all night, every night, it becomes very bad.”

There are some things you can do to avoid bedbugs: Don’t buy used furniture, keep your suitcase in the bathtub when you travel, and stay out of places where bedbugs are a problem. The Environmental Protection Agency also has several tips on its website to prevent and control bedbug infestations, as well as ways to identify the critters.

One thing people wanted to know – could renter’s insurance help out with killing bedbugs?

It turns out, in most cases, no. Insurance companies say bedbugs are a ‘maintenance issue’ and don’t cover the pests.

Staying in a hotel? You can use the Bedbug Registry website to see if there are any reports of bed bugs at the hotels.

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