Bed Bugs

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

Kim says “hands, fingers, all down her arms were the worst, one side of her face, legs, all over her”

Dr Stephen Doggett says “where ever people put down their head to lie, will be bedbugs” Makes your skin crawl, doesn't it? billions of critters creeping around, under the covers waiting, in the dead of night.

Night night, sleep tight, mind the bed bugs don't bite. It's just a bed time nursery rhyme, right? surely, in this day and age, bed bugs are a myth, make believe? Yes, well, tell that, to little Erin Mailer

Erin Mailer says “I didn't hurt them, why would they bite me?” Bite? Erin was eaten alive, by these tiny bloodsucking insects.

Brad Mailer says “we weren't talking about 10 or 12 bites we were talking about 100's, they were all over her” Erin was attacked while sleeping at a four star hotel in Perth. the 'last' place her parents Brad and Kim suspected to be infested with pests

Kim says “never in our wildest dreams would we imagine anything like that happening” It was until they arrived home from holidays, Brad discovered the villains, “just as I got to the front door, I happened to glance down and noticed a very small white bug crawling across our suitcase” The teenie weenie bed bugs which made a meal of his daughter, had hitch hiked a ride home with them. “I probably picked between 40 to 50 bed bugs off both cases”

Dr Stephen Doggett says”pretty much where anybody lives, sleeps, and breathes, bed bugs can actually be a problem” Several years ago, leading entomologist at Sydney's Westmead Hopsital, Dr Stephen Doggett predicted the once extinct bugs were making a comeback. “It's a pandemic, it's a world wide event, there's reports from right across the US England through Europe” In Australia, pest control experts estimate number of bed bugs has increased by 'one thousand' percent. “We don't fully know why bed bugs are suddenly coming back in the way they are but we suspect it's largely due to changes in pest control procedures” says Dr Stephen Doggett. Strong pesticides such as DDT, wiped them out in the 1950's. DDT's not used any more, this, together with an increase in travel, means the bugs are back. “People who go away often pick up these critters unknowingly bring them home, infest our home and have severe problems getting rid of them”

“They're the world's greatest hitch hiker”, not that long ago, Pest Controller Greg Mills wouldn't have known a bed bug if it bit him, now they're big business. “Eighteen months ago we didn't have any bed bug jobs, we are now getting 3 or 4 jobs a week and we are but one Pest control company in Perth, the problem is escalating”

They've treated infestations in backpackers, motels, five star hotels, and increasingly in people's homes, bed bugs don't discriminate, any bed, any body will do.

Greg Mills says “100 years ago this was a pest of the poor, 100 years on it's a pest of the wealthy” Tell tale signs of the insects, are in the seams of mattresses where bed bugs like to hide, and in the tiny blood spots they leave on sheets.

Dr Stephen Doggett says “they can live a long time wihtout a blood meal even up to six months so leaving aroom vacant wont go away” A clean house won't keep them at bay either, and, worse still, once you've got them, just try getting rid of em.

Greg Mills says “it's just that it's not a walk in walk out job this can be an ongoing thing, certainly were there for at least two treatments and they are three weeks apart, so we wouldn't consider a place bed bug free for 8 to 10 weeks” Treatments can cost thousands of dollars, not to mention the heartache. some families have been forced to strip their homes bare.

Kim Mailer says “the day we actually discovered them in the house I did break down and start crying”. The Mailers were lucky enough to catch the bugs in the nick of time,even so they had to fumagate their entire home. “We had to strip the beds, I got the quilts dry cleaned, underblankets dry cleaned moved the mattress outside, put them in the sun” The only known way to kill bed bugs is with chemicals, steam and extreme heat. but experts say were not winning the war.

Dr Stephen Doggett says “we urgently need research into better control strategies” Until then, there's only one way to keep the bed bugs away, don't tuck in for the night unless you've done a check. “Pull off any sheets mattress cover and look at the mattress particularly bedding close to the wall”

Greg Mills says “I'm terrified I'm gonna get them in my house”

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