Dogs vs. bedbugs

When I was a little girl, we lived in a rather shady apartment building in Halifax where we discovered we had bed bugs. I don’t recall how my mother got rid of them, but I suspect she used a DDT spray.

After almost disappearing, the scourge of bedbugs has returned to Halifax in recent years. 

The reason why is a mystery, but theories include the banning of potent insecticides and a growing resistance to the ones that are used, plus an increase in people travelling, bringing the pests with them.

Chemicals aren’t the only solution, though. There are specially trained dogs with amazing noses that can detect these obnoxious invaders.

Brian Barton created the company Bed Bug Detectives. He also offers heat treatment services to kill the bedbugs once the dogs pinpoint the problem. The company’s new heat-based treatment, which Barton created, can often be completed within 24 hours and doesn’t use any chemicals.

He got the idea for the business about 10 years ago while working with a pest control company. “I was absolutely shocked to visit an apartment in the city where an older lady was living all alone and discovered the rug in her living room was alive with bedbugs,” he recalls.

He did some research and travelled to the Florida Canine Academy where he bought Dottie, his first highly trained bedbug dog. Since then, he’s added two more dogs to his operation, tracking down bedbugs at sites around the city.

Barton showed me his dogs in action. First, with a small plastic covered container in which a live bedbug covered with a Kleenex was hiding, Barton went to a small cupboard, deposited the evidence, closed the door, and let a dog into the room to begin searching for what seemed like a most evasive target.

The dog leisurely circled the room, sometimes sniffing at the chairs and the floors until it reached the cupboard, sat down, and with a pronounced pat on the piece of furniture, identified the bedbug.

Of course, the best case is not having bedbugs in your home at all. Barton has advice to help with that. When you have returned home from a cruise or vacation, don’t think that leaving your suitcases overnight in a cold garage will kill any bedbugs you may have brought home with you. If there’s any risk you picked up travellers, carefully examine your luggage and its contents before you bring it into the house.

If you buy secondhand clothing, put it in a clothes dryer at the highest heat temperature for at least 45 minutes.

And if you think you have bedbugs? They won’t go away on their own and it’s pretty much impossible for an amateur to find them all. Seek expert help for the process of tracking them down and eliminating them.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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