Trash bins overflowed with mattresses and furniture last month at a South Bend apartment complex. But anyone tempted to repurpose the loot would have been in for a nasty surprise.
The bedding and furnishings were infested with bedbugs.
The bugs had moved into several of the complex’s buildings and were “spreading like wildfire” from apartment to apartment, according to one resident, who didn’t want to be named for fear of eviction.
“I noticed the bites first and I was thinking, ‘I’m breaking out or I have the measles,’ ” she said. “But then I saw a little bug.”
She called the complex office and they sent Terminix to look at her place. They confirmed that she had the bugs.
So did her daughter and grandchildren, who live in a nearby apartment.
“They are bit up bad,” she said. “My daughter and her friend threw away everything.”
The family is sleeping on the floor until the problem is resolved.
Meanwhile, the woman is concerned that the bugs might spread through the complex’s schoolchildren.
“My grandson goes to school and other kids out here go to school,” she said. “They say (the bugs) can travel on people’s clothing or purses.”
She’s right. Bedbugs don’t stay put.
“They are the best hitchhikers there are,” said Tim Harvey, manager of Terminix’s South Bend branch.
“They ride from place to place on clothing, luggage. They can even get on your pants and travel from room to room or be transported anywhere.
“It has nothing to do with sanitation or cleanliness. They are just good hitchhikers,” he said.
They tend to infest places with a lot of traffic: college dorms, hotels and motels, nursing homes, office buildings, schools and day cares, hospitals, public transportation and movie theaters.
Last year, Hawthorne Elementary School in Elkhart dealt with an infestation. In August, the Niles Housing Commission’s Hi Rise apartments had to call in a company with a bedbug-sniffing dog to deal with an infestation. There have been several reports of bedbugs at hotels in Michiana. And, of course, there are homes.
“I’ve actually gotten double the calls this year than we did previous years,” said Harvey. “We probably do an average of two to three jobs per week.”
Science and health
Bedbugs are small, flat, oval insects that feed solely on blood, preferably that of humans. They are usually active at night and prefer to hide close to where people sleep - especially in the crevices of the mattress, box spring, bed frame and headboard. They cannot fly, but will crawl as far as 20 feet to obtain a blood meal, said Marc Lame, an entomologist at Indiana University Bloomington.