This came up during our demonstration of our bed bug beagles in an annual Pest Management Association conference in Sturbridge, MA.
When someone tells us they have a bed bug problem, we ask a lot of questions so we make sure they don't waste their money. Case in point, if someone says that they have evidence of a lot of bed bugs, we suggest that they are wasting their money utilizing our services and instead should go with a pest control company to eradicate the infestation.
However, if you wonder how far the infestation spread, meaning - in adjacent rooms and/or rooms where you will sit a lot for a long period of time like a couch or a chair behind a PC then yes!, it makes sense to use our bed bug dogs to inspect other areas of potential infestation.
Getting back to IPM which stands for Integrated Pest Management.
The major components are:
- Educate yourself
- Cultural and Mechanical Control
- Biological Control
- Chemical Control
Fundamentally, bed bug dogs are the perfect tools for the Inspection and Monitoring phases of IPM.
During Inspection, the mantra is identify, identify, identify. It is important to properly identify the pest so that you know what to do and where to target your efforts.
The dog is the best candidate for inspecting and identifying bed bug infestations because it uses its nose to detect the scent of live bed bugs and eggs. Also it does this very quickly (3 minutes on average for a bedroom compared to 30 minutes for a human visual inspection) and it does this with an average 90% better accuracy that a 30% equivalent of a human inspection. This is because it can sniff out the scent in places that a person cannot see.
I have had so many calls for bed bug bites from people with no evidence of bed bugs. My latest call was from a woman who used steam treatment herself of all her belongings to get rid of them. Then my dogs were called in to do an inspection and they did not alert. She finally showed me "the bug" that caused her anxiety and upon closer inspection it turned out to be a head louse. I saved her a lot of potential bed bug treatment expenses. Next time I'll address the Monitoring aspect of the IPM program.
Let me start by quoting one definition of IPM which BTW stands for Integreated Pest Management:
"IPM is a process consisting of the balanced use of cultural, biological, and chemical procedures at are environmentally compatible and economically feasible to reduce pest populations to tolerable levels."
The benefits are:
- it saves money - it has to do with the process
- it promotes a healthy environment because it reduces the use of chemical pesticides
- and for the entertainment and hospitality industry, it maintains a good image. It shows that you are pro-active and that your primary concern is your customer and his/her health and piece of mind.
So, using a dog to detect bed bugs before it becomes a huge, costly and un-controllable problem fits well within the IPM approach. Using a dog is cost-effective because a dog can scan a room in 3 minutes on average (compared to a human visual inspection of 30 minutes), pinpoint the location of the infestation and thus prevent a broad-spectrum application of pesticide use to eradicate bed bugs.
Same with heat treatment. The dog can pinpoint infestation to a room and check adjacent rooms for infestation and thus minimize heat treatment to those rooms. A bed bug detection dog like Nicki or Malamer is a no-brainer. Plus they are sooooo cute!
Someone was asking me recently if bat bugs can also feed on humans. The answer is yes! If bat bugs don't find bats to feed on, they will resort to human blood. Same with Swallow bugs. Apparently they are all of the same family.
And indeed our dogs have been trained to alert on bat bugs as well.
Nicki at work
Here I am with my handler at work. This unit was the manager's office and fortunately for her, we did not find any bed bug smells in her office.
We then were tasked to inspect 20 rooms today on 3 floors. There had been complaints of bed bugs' bitings in several units and so our job was to sniff out bed bugs in all adjacent rooms as well as rooms directly a floor level up and down from the "suspect" rooms. So, in other words, if room 204 is infected for instance, then we want to go into rooms: 203 and 202 (adjacent ones) and rooms 104 and 304 (directly above and below) .
Now if we alert in any of those rooms, we start this game all over again. "left, right, across, up and down." You can see how this game can never end in extreme situations.
Do you feel my pain? Woof! Woof!
Our new addtion: Malamar, the Beagle/Jack Russel cross. What a budle of energy and stamina. Job well done, girls!
Talking about the smell of bed bugs similar to strawberries in my last post. I received today a package from berries.com - a valentine gift from my sweetheart - how appropriate: strawberries dipped in chocolate.
Taking a break from those sweet strawberry-smelling bed bugs.
Happy Valentine's day from Nicki and Malamar and their handlers.
I found out recently that if bed bugs are disturbed, they exude a musty, sweet, strawberry-like smell.
This sweet odor is also very noticeable in large infestations of bed bugs.