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Bedbugs invade Modesto, travelling easily to homes

Add Modesto to the list of cities under attack by bedbugs.

The bloodsucking pests have been a growing problem in New York City for months—and now they’re here, pest-control operators say.

While the New York outbreak has struck hotels and public places, bedbugs in Modesto and surrounding cities are mostly turning up in homes, according to exterminators.

“They’re pretty prolific right now,” said George Krukov, a manager with Western Exterminator Co. in Modesto.

Krukov’s company gets about three calls a week from homeowners who suspect bedbug infestations. Other pest control companies also say bedbugs are a problem, although there’s no way to know just how common the bugs actually are.

The Stanislaus County Department of Environmental Resources, which tracks bedbug complaints, has had three reports in the past several months. But the director of the department says the calls come from motel customers, not homeowners, who generally call pest control companies to take care of the problem.

A bedbug is flat, about the size of an apple seed. The bugs feed on human blood, like ticks, and multiply quickly, hatching as many as five eggs a day. They can be clear, but after a blood meal, they can be reddishbrown.

It’s clear the critters have hitched rides to the area. They’re right at home in suitcases and on travelers’ clothes, pest-control operators say.

Another way they make it into people’s homes is on used or reconditioned furniture from yard sales or antique stores.

“They’re great travelers,” Krukov said.

When the bugs first appeared in Modesto about four years ago, “we had maybe six calls in one year,” said Don Locke of Consumers Choice Pest Control of Turlock. “Now we probably get a couple a week.”

But not all those people have bedbugs, he said.

“It will be on the news, and all of a sudden someone starts itching and wonders if it’s bedbugs,” Locke said. “People can be overconcerned.”

It can be difficult to distinguish bedbug bites from other insect bites. According to the Mayo Clinic, bedbug bites usually are:

Red, often with a darker red spot in the middle

Itchy

Arranged in a rough line or cluster

Located on the face, neck, arms and hands

Some people have no reaction to bedbug bites, while others are allergic and experience severe itching, blisters or hives.

Homeowners who try to kill the bugs themselves may believe they’ve conquered the pests only to have them reappear, Locke said.

“If you miss something, just a couple of spots, you’re going to end up back at square one,” he said.

The bugs crawl into cracks and hide. Professionals often dismantle furniture, like bedroom sets, to get to the pests.

A professional extermination job starts at a few hundred dollars and can run into the thousands, depending on the size of the infestation and methods used.

Bedbugs don’t discriminate. Pest-control operators say they’ve found the pests in public buildings and nursing homes, as well as in spotless houses.

“With a lot of insects, they depend on the environment, the cleanliness of the home,” Locke said. “But you can be the cleanest person in the world and still end up with bedbugs.”

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray contributed to this report.

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