[ back ]
Bedbugs invade Prairie Township
|Photo courtesy of the Franklin County Board of Health
|This brown, wingless insect has become a big problem for many living in Prairie Township.
Prairie Township is the center of a major bedbug infestation, and that infestation has made its way to the fire department.
According to Prairie Township Fire Chief Steve Feustel, it all started when the department was contacted by the Franklin County Board of Health (FCBH) about the bedbug problem in Ohio.
“So, we sent a representative to what is known as the Bedug Summit a couple weeks ago,” said Feustel. “At the summit they told us, as well as everybody else, that the highest population of bedbugs found in the county was in Prairie Township. Not just a little bit- we were extremely higher than everyone else.”
Prairie Township does have a problem with the tiny, brown wingless insect.
Dr. Susan Jones, an associate professor in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University and a member of the Central Ohio Bedbug Task Force, said information has been compiled by the task force using inspection and code enforcement information as well as data from extermination companies.
“The 43228 zip code is basically ground zero for bedbugs in Columbus,” said Jones.
According to the Franklin County Board of Health Web site, bedbugs, “feed off of the blood of humans and other mammals.”
The bugs, 1/4 inch in length, with a flattened oval shape, are rusty brown in color.
They may be found in homes, movie theaters and restrooms, but are being seen more and more in apartments, hotels, homes, shelters, dormitories and nursing homes, according to the FCBH.
“They told us that these bedbugs can be acquired by us walking into other infested areas and carrying them back to the fire house,” said Feustel. “The eggs can stick on clothing as well as shoes.”
Feustel said when the firehouse representative returned from the summit they immediately decided to check the fire house for bedbugs.
“We found one bunk that showed us we had an infestation in that one bed. It hasn’t been found anywhere else in the bunk room or in the department,” Feustel explained.
He said the firehouse immediately carried out the extermination process after evidence of bedbugs was found.
The Franklin County Board of health Web site states rust colored stains on bedding from bug excrement and feeding is usually the first sign of bedbugs and itchy welts on the skin can also be an indicator.
“They (exterminators) did research and followed through to make sure we were clean. They came back out and reinspected and retreated last week and found that they could give us a clean bill of health,” Feustel said.
Jones said extermination techniques are an issue with bedbugs. She said many people try to solve their bedbug problem through common pest extermination methods, such as a bug bomb.
According to Jones, this is the worst method to use on bedbugs, because bombs cause bedbugs to scatter. They do not kill the bug, therefore they simply spread throughout other areas of the home.
Jones said bedbugs can hide themselves well behind wall-hangings, in bed frames, under carpet tack strips, and underneath loose wall paper.
“Pesticide misuse is rampant. Bug bombs are the absolute worst thing you can do for bedbugs...This is just not a do-it-yourself pest extermination,” said Jones.
Feustel said the firehouse has taken other precautionary measures since the extermination.
The firehouse had a washer and dryer donated to them by Home Depot about a year and a half ago and now the firefighters are using it to launder clothes on site.
He said bedbug eggs on clothing can be killed by putting clothes in the dryer and letting it run for at least ten minutes.
“We installed the washer and dryer down in the spare bay so it is as far from the living quarters as possible, and we installed those strictly for washing rags and contaminated clothing,” said Feustel.
Feustel and Jones both said bedbugs can effect anyone anywhere.
“This problem is not uncommon for rich or poor or clean or dirty houses. It is a matter of picking them up from one place and moving them to another,” said Feustel.
“Firefighters are now reporting bedbug infested apartments and buildings as they find them. They are wearing pull-on disposable boots on runs where we feel there has been a history of bedbug issues,” he added.
“Anybody, anywhere can get bedbugs. They are really well adapted to living with humans and there really shouldn’t be any stigma attached to them because the reason you get bed bugs is because you have blood,” said Jones.
Jones said bedbugs may proportionally effect those in Franklin County who are more vulnerable, such as low income families, because exterminating bedbugs is time consuming and very expensive.
She said it can take several extermination treatments to alleviate a problem.
The Prairie Township firehouse has managed to to stay on top of their bedbug infestation, so it is a battle which can be won.
“The firefighters are sleeping a lot easier now. Please be aware - we are not the first firehouse to have bugs. When they say you can see the floor move, they’re not lying,” said Feustel.
However, Jones said Prairie Township trustees and residents must be made aware of this problem and she said the Central Ohio Bedbug Task Force suggests a town hall meeting be held to raise awareness.
“We need to increase awareness of what bedbugs are and how they are spread,” said Jones.
[ back ]