INDIANAPOLIS — Larry Lobdell is the official “bed bug guy” for the Marion County Health Department. And he is one busy man.
“You don’t really hear about it in the media that much, but it is still really a big problem,” Lobdell said. “I do nothing but bed bugs for the health department.”
He said in 2009 the department decided to dedicate a position to helping educate people about bed bugs and what they can do to get rid of them. As a health inspector, he answers questions and makes home visits, time permitting.
“Since taking over in 2009, I have taken more than 3,000 calls,” he said. “I try to answer them all. People just don’t know who to turn to.”
Lobdell said bed bugs are very sly creatures and can be very difficult to exterminate.
“It is very labor intensive to take on bed bugs on your own,” he said. “It’s best to call a pest control professional.”
He said it’s best to take action as soon as it is determined that the pests are bed bugs.
“In six months, you can have 30,000 bed bugs, if they go untreated,” Lobdell said. “And it’s tough because it’s hard to see them until they are adults.”
The first step is to do some research to make sure they are bed bugs, then begin to reduce clutter in the home. Dirty living conditions don’t cause bed bugs, he said, but cleaning and removing clutter will help in controlling them.
“I always ask people if they have the right tools,” he said. “A vacuum cleaner is the best way to get rid of them. You must wash and dry your bed clothes on high heat. You have to keep you clothing up off the floor and never pick up a mattress that someone has thrown out.”
He also stressed that dropping furniture or bedding at a thrift store is not a good idea.
“That’s how people bring them home,” Lobdell said. “But your vacuum cleaner is your first line of defense. I don’t like to recommend chemicals. I would also like to emphasize that over-the-counter sprays or bed bug bombs are of little or no use. Most bugs are now resistant strains of bugs.”
He said if a chemical touches them but doesn’t kill them, it will make them stronger.
“The professionals have chemicals that do kill them,” he said. “That’s why I recommend using professionals, if you can afford it.”
Lobdell said the infestations tend to occur and return when families can’t afford proper extermination.
“I encourage people to get educated,” he said. “You have to be diligent, but you can get rid of them without an exterminator. They hide in head boards, foot boards, cracks, and crevices.”
A mattress and box springs can be encased in a special cover and exclusion devices can be used so the bugs can’t climb up the legs of the bed.
“These bugs down fly, they have to crawl,” Lobdell said. “Two sided tape works well. You can make a barrier on the leg of the bed they cannot climb across.”
Falling under the category of “it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it,” Lobdell said he takes precautions daily so he doesn’t take the bugs back to his own home. When returning from a trip, he said he leaves his suitcase in the garage and washes all clothing before bringing it inside.
“If I’ve done a home inspection, I’ll undress in the garage before I go in the house,” he said.
The health department has literature available to help home owners, property managers, and tenants about bed bugs. Such information can be e-mailed or mailed. To request information, call the office at 221-2000.
Managing bed bugs
BED BUG DON’TS
n Use a bug bomb or fogging device.
n Permanently vacant a room after a pesticide treatment. The bed bugs will either go dormant or crawl off to the next room to find you. Stay out of the room for at least four hours, then live in it.
n Use a pesticide that is not “listed” for bed bugs.
BED BUG MUST DO’S
n Buy zippered mattress covers and encase both mattress and box springs. Tape over any rips that may occur from handling and tape over the zipper as well. Leave in place for a year.
n Kill all bed bugs in bed frame either with alcohol, steam, or manually with wet wipes.
n Don’t let anything touch the floor or wall (blankets or covers). Make the bed or couch an island.
n Put caster cubs, jar lids, or pie pans under legs of bed or couch. Put boric acid power, diatomaceous earch, or dishwashing liquid in them.
BED BUG SHOULD DO’S
n Wash and dry all clothes and bed linens and anything else that has touch the floor or bed.
n Bag anything else that has been on the floor. Either leave the bag for a year or put a “listed” no-pest strip in the bag for three weeks.
n If you must purchase pesticides, buy them from a pest control company rather than a retail store.
n Hire a licensed pest control operator to treat your home or apartment.
BED BUG HELPFUL TO DO’S
n Put out sticky pads to monitor activity.
n Put double stick tape on all furniture legs.
n Spray all baseboards with a “listed” pesticide. Spray furniture legs. Spray night stands or other furniture near the bed or couch. Perhaps spray floor area around bed or couch.
BED BUG USELESS TO DO’S
n Move to another location. They are already in your furniture. They will travel with you.
n Throw out furniture (unless heavily infested or ripped.)
n Nothing. Doing nothing is not an option. Bed bugs are not a seasonal pest, nor do they care about how clean your house is. Once you have them, they have to be dealt with.