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Aanteater in the News

Scratch, scratch…
By Carmela Fragomeni
cfragomeni@thespec.com
905-526-3392


Hamilton infestation ‘huge problem right now,’ as workers spread out across city to clean, spray

The unbearable itching is the worst part, says Ralph Guarino about bedbug bite from the nocturnal creatures feasting on him in his bed.

“Oh my God, you’re sleeping and you get itchy. Your start scratching and you can’t sleep anymore. It was pretty awful,” he says of his two year battle to get rid of them. “When you scratch too much, you start bleeding.”

The 45-year-old schizophrenia sufferer is finally bedbug-free thanks to a Good Shepherd crew that thoroughly vacuums and steam-cleans a place before pest control spraying and then returns in 10 to 14 days to do it again if necessary.

Guarino is among hundreds of mostly poor Hamiltonians with bedbug infestations this past year. Many weren’t as lucky in getting rid of them.

“It’s a huge problem right now, and I don’t think people are grasping this,” says Matt Bowen, manager of the Good Shepherd Works Program, a social enterprise concentrating on the social aspects of business by giving jobs to people with employment barriers such as mental illness or learning disabilities.

The roster of 80 workers are paid $9.50 to $12 an hour to clean, paint, landscape and do lawn maintenance, but “the bedbug problem is out meat and potatoes,” treating 250 apartments a year, Bowen says. Hamilton’s social housing is there biggest client.

The social stigma of bedbugs is devastating. And because the insect’s resilience requires a very aggressive approach and a lot of work to get rid of them, the problem is also extremely stressful, he says.

At St. Matthews House, which serves the poor, Sherri Ramirez is at a loss about how to help the 40 families in the past six months who needed mattresses to replace the ones they threw out because of bedbug infestations.

“If you drive around this area (Barton Street and Wentworth), you’ll see mattress thrown outside apartment buildings and house all the time,” says Ramirez. “My concern is people who are on fixed income… their kids are sleeping on the floor.”

“It’s poor people who are losing out. Not everyone can afford to have their place steamed or have a company come in to spray.”

The Good Shepherd Works Program can offer advice and sometimes advocacy for people who call its bedbug hotline 905-525-5188, ext. 23.

On the Mountain meanwhile, where the Compassion Ministries furniture centre helps 80 families a week, Pastor Jon Huxtable says: “Bedbugs is by far the number one problem that sends people to us. It’s a much bigger problem than cockroaches and rats.”

Sleep Country helps by taking old beds for $10 when delivering new ones and then storing them at its Ancaster warehouse for people referred by help agencies. This and private mattress donations have worked well so far, Huxtable says.

The bedbug problem is really sad because it affects the most marginal people who can’t afford to do anything, he says.

“Honestly, I don’t know how to describe it…”

“They don’t know what to do… they don’t know how to get the problem solved.”


Don’t let the bedbugs bite

What are they?
  • Bedbugs are small insects of the family Cimicidae. They feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals.
  • Bites can become inflamed
  • Not known to carry any human diseases
  • Usually feed at night and hide during day in bedding, cracks in bed, wooden furniture, walls.
  • Ride on used furniture, luggage, clothing to infest new location
  • Piercing mouth part release an anticoagulant to get blood flowing; excrete a numbing agent so bite don’t often wake victims; may trigger allergic reaction.
What to look for
  • Itchy red welts in the morning that weren’t there the night before.
  • Dark spotting on mattress, box springs and bed frames from bedbug fecal matter
  • Spots of blood on sheets and mattress
What to do
  • Experts say professional exterminators, with several follow-up visits, may be needed.
How to avoid
  • Examine secondhand furniture and luggage after trips
  • Check hotel beds for dark spots, place luggage on a rack instead of on the floor when travelling.


Source: Source AP, U.S. National Pest Management Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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