Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo make list of areas with big bed bug problems

WEST MICHIGAN — It’s a problem that has plagued many across the state for years and according to experts it’s not going away anytime soon.

The culprit: bed bugs.

According to Orkin’s top 50 bed bug cities in 2013 the Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo area ranked 33rd in the nation for infestations.

They’re known as the social bug, one of the best hitchhikers and those in the business say they are getting calls daily about people having problems with bed bugs.

From pest control technicians to even those working at the Battle Creek Farm Bureau, Larry Martz with the Farm Bureau says people are coming in daily to pick up products as they try to get rid the bed bugs.

“We had a gentlemen come in the other day who travels a lot he was in a three piece suit.  Anybody can get them,” he said.

Mike Smith started his business ‘Bed Bug Investigations’ in 2009.  When he began he would get two to three jobs a month, now it’s non-stop. He uses his trained detection dogs at places all across the state to find bed bugs.

He says aside from what most might think a lot of his business isn’t at hotels or homes but rather other public places.

We work restaurant chains, churches; doctors’ offices. Just got back form a dentist office today.”

It’s a problem that has grown in recent years; in fact, in 2009 the EPA hosted its first bed bug summit to get recommendations from the public on how to address the issue.

A Federal Strategy on bed bugs is expected to be released later this year on how various levels of government can contribute to minimizing the effects of infestations. Since bed bugs are not known to transmit disease there’s little enforcement and no state laws.

Smith says people who live with bed bugs for months sometimes aren’t aware they have a problem and then it gets spread to other people.

Not to mention the stigma that comes with having bed bugs.

“You deny it, you’re ashamed, you get angry; there is a lot of shame,” he said.

It’s a little bug that can do a lot of damage, both emotionally and financially, and the cost to get rid of an infestation not cheap, “we just need to be a little more proactive we can’t put our heads in the sand and say this isn’t a problem, it’s going to be here time and time again,” he said.

For more information on how to identify bed bugs and ways to get rid of them: http://www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases/0,1607,7-186–147759–,00.html

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