DOES TORONTO HAVE A BED BUG PROBLEM?
Firstly, if you are concerned about bed bugs you can call Toronto Health Connection on 416-338-7600.
Bed bugs (Cimex lectlaris) can be found throughout the world, and it was once thought that they were most common in developing countries. However, recent statistics show that bed bug infestations have spread to a number of developed countries, and Canada seems to be somewhere near the top of this list.
What is a bed bug?
A bed bug is an insect that most favors sucking on human blood. They are typically no more than 1/4 inch before they feed, although once they feed they will become bloated and turn a dark red color. Bed bugs have a fairly short life-span, and will generally live no longer than a year. They are nocturnal creatures which hide in cracks and crevices in beds, floors, wooden furniture and walls during the day, before emerging at night to feed on their favorite and preferred host, humans.
With that said, bed bugs are also known to bite (and feed off) mammals and birds. They will lay extremely small, whitish, oval shaped eggs in cracks and crevices, usually 10-50 at a time. It is estimated that a female bed bug will lay 200-400 eggs during her lifetime. However, it must be said, that this will vary depending on room temperature and their food supply. The eggs will then hatch within a week, thus causing a bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs are known to bite the entire human body, although they appear to have a preference for the face, neck, arms, hands and upper torso. Both male and female bed bugs will bite, and they are actually able to survive for up to 6 months without feeding. The vast majority of people will not even be aware that they have been bitten, but it is safe to say that there are no known infectious diseases that can be transmitted via a bed bug bite.
The first real report of bed bugs anywhere in the world was in England during the 1880s. An incredible 75% of homes had been infested with bed bugs, and although there was no actual data for Toronto at this time, it was believed that if their current level of infestation was not treated they could soon see a similar percentage of home infested.
However, through the concerted efforts of governments, and the use of pesticides, bed bug infestation had all but become completely eradicated in the Western world (Toronto included) during the 1940s and 1950s. The pesticide that was mainly used during this time was DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). This was known to be an extremely potent nerve poison that was generally used to kill insects that carry malaria, typhus and yellow fever, such as mosquitoes and black flies.
It was quite possible to believe that bed bugs would never be seen again in the Western world, although what was to follow is believed to have started the resurgence of bed bugs. A North American Regional Action Plan (NARAP) negotiated with Canada, Mexico, and the United States to completely eliminate the production and use of DDT in the three said countries.
DDT became increasingly restricted throughout Canada during the 1970s and was banned outright by the 1980s. The bed bug “problems” remained under control for a number of years and prior to 2003 bed bug complaints had been mild and sporadic, however, 2003 saw a total of 46 reports to Toronto Public Health.
That being said, pest control operators in Toronto actually reported that they treated bed bug infestations in a whopping 847 locations in 2003. The main culprits were single-family dwellings (70% of treatments), apartments (18%), and homeless shelters (8%). The number of bed bug reports appears to be much lower than the actual treatments carried out, year on year, by pest control operators. Bed bug reports increased to 197 by 2005, and amazingly a total of 1,500 reports were made to Toronto Public Health between March 2008 and October 2008.
Where Are Bed Bugs Most Commonly Found In Toronto?
As you can see from the statistics above, residential areas and homeless shelters appear to have been hit worst by bed big infestations. However, the number of reported incidents in the city’s hotels has dramatically increased over the past few years. Many travel advisory websites appear to be teeming with consumer reviews and complaints about bed bugs.
One unlucky traveller commented that he had found a bug on his bed when entering the room. He simply removed it and went to sleep. When he awoke the next morning he found a further 2 bed bugs in his bed and one of the lampshade. Upon further investigation it was found that many other guests had filed similar complaints with the hotel’s staff and management.
What is even more surprising is that the hotel in question has a wide variety of great reviews over the years, it is a four-star hotel, and regarded as one of the desirable hotels to stay at in Toronto.
– Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel
The Sheraton Centre Toronto hotel as well in excess of 1200 reviews, and admittedly the vast majority of ratings are in the very good to excellent categories. In fact, there appears to only be one report of bed bugs in this hotel.
The gentleman in question stayed at the hotel in September 2010 and discovered a bed bug on his bed upon entering his room. Without much further thought he simply discarded the pest and went to sleep, as he did not realize it was a bed bug. However, the following morning he discovered a further three bugs, two of which were sitting on his bed and another on a bedside table. Interestingly there is no response from the hotel management to this report.
– The Sutton Place Hotel
The Sutton Place Hotel, much like the Sheraton, appears to have a very high number of positive reviews, although one occupant has made report of bed bugs. The couple were visiting from Chicago, Illinois, and the wife was woken with bed bug bites. They notified the hotel staff immediately, and were informed that their room would be changed, and indeed all their clothes would be cleaned.
After the staff had inspected the room they stated that the inspection was inconclusive and simply allowed the couple to change rooms. The couple then left their clothes in plastic bags in the original room. They spoke to the assistant manager after the weekend and were informed that their clothes would be dry-cleaned and that an official inspector had been notified.
Unfortunately, the couple never heard any more on the matter, and have stated that they were never apologized to for the inconvenience, never offered any compensation, never offered any advice, and the hotel never admitted any responsibility. With that said, the couple had their clothes returned the following day and the original room they had stayed in was fumigated, which of course caused other travellers in adjoining rooms to be moved.
Christopher Ashby, the director of sales at the Sutton place hotel did respond to these hotel guests. He started by saying that the hotel has had very few incidents of bed bugs, although on each occasion it was dealt with urgently. Mr Ashby further commented that there had recently been a “Bed Bug Summit” held, and that bed bugs appear to be booming, not only in Toronto, but in every major city in North America.
He admitted that bed bugs had been found in many hotel rooms, movie theatres, college dorm rooms, libraries and even clothing stores, but wanted to make sure that the couple were aware that this problem had nothing to do with cleanliness. Mr Ashby also added that the hotel had had a number of complaints of bed bug infestation, but it had been found that the majority of these complaints had been proven false after an official inspection had taken place.
– 321 Sherborne Street
There are a total of nine reports at this particular address in Toronto that can be found on the bedbugregistry website. One former tenant reported a bed bug infestation in 2006 and explained that this is one of the most stressful times in their life. Unfortunately, they were literally camped out on the couch almost 2 weeks while they awaited fumigation.
This tenant actually used an innovative way to keep bed bugs away from themselves. They wrapped up their box spring that sits on the floor in an old plastic shower curtain. They discovered that bed bugs are unable to climb up slick plastic, and therefore even though there were bed bugs in the room and building, they were unable to get to the tenant.
A more recent report was made by a tenant who lived at the address for just over three years. This particular tenant explained that they became very ill, and that the landlord simply ignored the problem. Eventually this tenant made complaints to the Public Health Department and the tribunal for tenant/landlords.
Another tenant reported to the landlord that they found bed bugs on their futon and in the bedrooms. Once again, they brought the matter to the panel’s attention, although they claimed that the landlord refused to pay for fumigation first. Yet again, the landlord and tenants board became involved, and ordered fumigation.
The Toronto Bed Bug Project
The board of health recommended that Toronto public health led a community-wide action committee against bed bugs. This was initially started in February 2008, and the committee was renamed “The Toronto bed bug project” in April 2008. Their aim has been to develop strategies to manage bed bug infestations throughout Toronto.
One of the ways in which they aim to achieve this is a confidential survey which asks brief questions on how bed bugs affect people’s lives. Their survey contains questions that are specifically aimed at homeowners, landlords, and tenants. In addition to the survey are working to coordinate current efforts, develop partnerships, and investigate bed bug practices that are found in other jurisdictions.
The Toronto bed bug project is currently running five pilot projects through the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. These projects will investigate methods to control, reduce and prevent infestations of bed bugs in Toronto buildings. In addition to this pest control inspectors are looking to liaise with landlords, building management and pest control professionals in order to ensure that there is a professional and efficient pest control system in place.
Public health inspectors are now available throughout Toronto to conduct informational and educational sessions on bed bugs, and these can be requested by anyone within the community. They have also produced 17 fact sheets that are available in several languages, as well as the public health inspector providing information on how to identify bed bugs, how to prepare an area of the treatment, and of course how to control cases of bed bugs.