SAN ANTONIO — Lenny, an energetic Jack Russell terrier, has a job that can make your skin crawl. He sniffs out blood-sucking bedbugs. Canines are the latest four-legged weapon in the battle against the six-legged parasites.
“He’s been trained to sense the bedbugs with his nose,” said Mark Stanford, manager at Pest Management Corp (a division of Hill Country Pest Control) and Lenny’s handler. Stanford travels the area making house calls with Lenny, helping consumers determine if bedbugs are infesting their mattresses, carpets, furniture and other nooks and crannies in their homes or offices.”We’ve found them in crevices of popcorn ceilings, couches, dressers, anything,” Stanford said.Much like a drug or bomb-sniffing dog is trained, Lenny, a one-time rescue pup, was taught how to track the pheromones of the pesky parasites. To demonstrate Lenny’s accuracy, Stanford planted a mesh-covered vial of bedbugs under a mattress. Within seconds of sniffing around the bed, Lenny excitedly pawed at the correct area and was rewarded with a treat.Across the country, bedbugs are showing up increasingly in apartments, dormitories, offices, movie theaters and even hospitals.
Pest control companies, including several in the San Antonio area, report calls for bedbugs are on the rise. The tiny creepy crawlers can be difficult to see when they are young. A full-grown bedbug that has feasted on blood is brownish in color and about the size of an apple seed.The bedbug boom is attributed to increased travel and the bugs’ resiliency to pesticides which can no longer contain DDT.Chemical fumigation is the conventional treatment for bedbugs, but Stanford said heat remediation is more effective and better for the environment. His company totes heating units into customers’ homes.”You basically cook the house at 139 degrees for six hours, eliminating all bedbugs, all the eggs,” Stanford said. “The heat permeates anything and everything.”Heat remediation can be pricey, depending on the size of the home. Treating a 2,000 square-foot home can run $3,000. Lenny’s services are $125 to sniff out the typical house.Bedbugs are not known to spread any disease, but their bites can leave some people itching in misery.