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With a number of pest control companies seeing more businesses having bed bug problems, the City of Racine Health Department has partnered with SC Johnson and Batzner Pest Control to talk about the issue.

Businesses and private residents have had to battle the problem, landlords, tenants, business owners and the community are invited to the free event.

Despite that bed bugs don’t spread disease and are not considered “a medical or public health hazard,” they are considered a nuisance and are on the rise here. Bed bugs bite people while they are sleeping on the face, neck, arms, hands and other body parts. The bites can take up to 14 days to develop.

Randy Rupert, team leader for Batzner Pest Control, said the problem started in Wisconsin in 2010, but it’s affecting the whole state and country.

“There aren’t necessarily more bed bugs, but they are moved around more,” Rupert said. “It exploded, hit a plateau and just hasn’t come down.”

But more businesses, municipalities, and even libraries are seeing bed bugs in those spaces, Rupert said.

So how big has the problem gotten?

Wally Ross, owner of Critter Gitters, said he’s seen the amount of bed bug cases increase over the past nine years. Ross handled his first bed bug case nine years ago and probably had two to three cases back then. Now, he gets five to seven a week and bed bug cases make up about 20 to 25 percent of the work he does.

But one of the biggest misnomers is that bed bug infestations are about poor hygiene or the cleanliness of living spaces.

“Bed bugs are an equal opportunity pest,” Ross said. “They love warm red blood and that takes into account all of humanity. It’s not a cleanliness problem.”

While bed bugs don’t travel well on their own, they are often transported by people and used furniture. One way people get bed bugs is by getting used furniture, but Ross hasn’t heard any issues with people getting bed bugs from furniture bought from used furniture stores.

“It’s usually an issue when people buy used furniture at a rummage sale, online or curb shopping,” he said. “You’ll see a perfectly good dresser or a bed set out on the curb and they are just full of bed bugs.”

The telltale sign of having a bed bug problem is by having bite marks, but officials with the City of Racine Health Department pointed out other signs, which include:

  • Seeing the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • Seeing bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • Seeing rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby
  • furniture
  • Smelling a sweet musty odor

The Bed Bug Blues, the community event, is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 3 at SC Johnson Golden Rondelle, 1525 Howe St.


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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.