LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Lee County government is taking steps to prepare for a long battle against the current outbreak of bedbugs. The county is training managers in how to inspect libraries for the biting insects, and it's buying a cargo trailer to serve as a "hot box" to roast the bugs off furniture.
"This is going to be a battle for a while, because we have public buildings, and members of the public are the ones who transport the bugs into the buildings," said Mike Stevens, supervisor of Lee's pest control team of three.
"We cringe when we hear about bedbugs, because we know how hard it is to get rid of them and stay rid of them," added Stevens. "One problem is: we do not have a silver bullet, since the government banned DDT, as a residual killer of bugs. We have sprays that kill on contact, but they don't have a long, residual kill effect. And bedbugs spend 90 percent of their lives hiding away. They only come out to feed, or bite a person for blood, 10 percent of the time. So it's hard to get the contact spray killing pesticide on all of the bugs."
Stevens is training managers of Lee Co. libararies in how to spot bedbugs. Already, he and his crew members have sprayed 2 libraries for bedbug infestatations. And Lee Co. is buying a 20-foot black cargo trailer. When left out in the sun, it will serve as a 'roaster' to kill bugs. Stevens says temperatures inside the trailer should reach 115 degrees, and that will kill bugs and their eggs in 3 hours. The idea is to put infested furniture into the trailer and kill the bugs, thus saving the furniture. Recently, Lee destroyed 40 chairs from the Ft. Myers Library that had bugs. "We can't afford to keep throwing out good furniture! The trailer will give us a way to save the chairs and tables," said Stevens.
He predicts the current outbreak of bedbugs will last for a while. "This has been building since the bugs made a re-emergence in this country in the 1990's. They had been virtually wiped out from the 40's til the 90's. Now we know, they are here and they are spreading, and people are the way they get transported from one place to another," said Stevens.