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‘Don’t Bug Out’: Nashua still battling bed bugs

Telegraph photo by ADAM URQUHART Nashua Division of Public Health & Community Services Laboratory Director Ren Beaudoin works in the lab, looking through a microscope at a bed bug and some ticks on Tuesday afternoon.

NASHUA – Whether the crawlers make their way to a high-end apartment complex or to a homeless shelter, multi-unit dwellings throughout Nashua continue to see cases of bed bugs.

“I think just like most things in public health, we really only get a fraction of the phone calls of what’s actually happening. Most times, I think people are working it out with their landlord, or getting treatment or dealing with it through other means,” Nashua Division of Public Health & Community Services Health Officer and Laboratory Director Ren Beaudoin said.

In August, The Telegraph interviewed Beaudoin about the state of bed bugs in the Gate City. This week, we decided to see how the situation compares to that of last summer.

“We don’t want people to self-apply pesticides in their homes,” Beaudoin said this week about dealing with bed bugs. “There’s a lot of places that will sell gimmicky stuff, like these bed bug bombs and bed bug foggers. They don’t work.”

Beaudoin said officials generally receive calls regarding these pests in more extreme cases, when people let the issue go for too long. He said he receives an equal number of calls related to bed bugs as he has in the last couple years. The division tends to get more calls from tenants than landlords.

Although Beaudoin said he has not seen a large spike in cases, he doesn’t know how many calls they receive versus those cases that are just going to the courts with the bed bug law. He is also unsure how many people are actually calling to file a complaint compared to how many people are just working the issue out with their landlords.

State law establishes that once a tenant notifies a landlord of the assumed bed bug infestation, the landlord then has seven days to investigate and determine if, in fact, an infestation is present, and then take the reasonable measures to fix the problem. Additionally, the tenant of the infested unit must grant their landlord emergency access to their apartment within 72 hours after notifying them. If the tenant denies the landlord entry to their unit, or if a landlord fails to investigate and remediate the issue, then both situations would be in violation. Both cases can be appealed by the opposing party to the Nashua District Court.

Right now, Beaudoin said his division averages one call per week regarding bed bugs.

If someone notices an insect they suspect to be a bed bug, he said they should capture it so it can be identified, and folks can bring their specimen down to the division to be identified. This is located at 18 Mulberry St.

To reach the division, call 603-589-4530, or go to https://nashuanh.gov/Directory.aspx?DID=45.

Beaudoin said if the crawler is verified as being a bed bug, people should then check around their house, looking under beds, in cracks and crevices, headboards and any dark areas where they could hide. Additionally, people should do a quick survey of their entire unit, checking all furnishings such as couches and chairs to see if there is any additional signs of bed bugs such as egg casings or black fecal smears.

He recommends people get in the mindset of vacuuming their space on a regular basis.

“Density in housing is certainly an aspect to it. It’s not the sole answer, but it is certainly a cause of why it spreads,” Beaudoin said.

He said people can set up pitfall traps, also called interceptor traps, which are plastic dish wells made of slick plastic, allowing the bugs to crawl up inside, but restricting them from getting back out.

“If you’re able to catch it early, then you can deal with it early,” Beaudoin said.

Bed bugs have to feed at least five times before reaching their adult stage, where they can then breed and have more eggs. However, he said there is a lot of feeding that happens before they reach adulthood, and bed bugs only feed about once a week. He said that means people have about six weeks before the situation gets to a critical mass point.

Beaudoin said he does not recommend residents spray for bed bugs on their own. He wants people to seek someone who is licensed to use powerful and appropriate chemicals. By doing so, that person will know what type of chemical needs to be used, and how much of it should be applied.

Beaudoin also said division employees try to update their educational items and brochures, as he said they just made a new bed bug fact sheet. He said they are also trying to translate more of their products into Spanish so the information is available in at least two languages.

“We’ve come into an age where people just don’t know about bed bugs,” Beaudoin said. “It was exceptionally common before 1940. Everybody knew about bed bugs. It was common knowledge. People saw them; everybody knew what they looked like; they were in most homes. But then, between the 50s and the 90s, everyone lost that knowledge. So, now we have to regain that knowledge. We have to know how to act to be proactive to work well with our landlords, with our tenants, with our pest management companies to make sure we work as a cohesive whole to treat a problem if we have one.”