Yellowknife is the capital and largest city in the Northwest Territories, but the population is only 20,000. From the article below and from several phone calls we’ve received from Yellowknife residents, it sounds like the bedbug problem is significant.
The good news is that health officials and residents are being extremely aggressive and proactive in their efforts to treat the bedbugs by using both chemical and physical methods.
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Bedbugs are still biting around the city, and the territory has only one man who can help them deal with it.
Concerned Northern Properties tenant Gerard “Mike” LeBlanc provided Yellowknifer with documents confirming his unit in Ptarmigan Apartments has been invaded by the creepy crawlers. This confirmation was dated Jan. 19. Further documentation shows that an initial bed bug treatment was scheduled for the following Thursday, Jan. 26, but was later cancelled because the NWT’s only pest control specialist, the “Orkin Man” based out of Hay River, had to cancel his bi-monthly trip to the capitol city due to an abscessed tooth. LeBlanc received notice on Jan. 31 that the company’s pesticide contractor was rescheduled to spray his apartment to kill the pest on Feb. 22.
A delay in treating a bedbug infestations “would just give them more time to multiply,” said Duane Fleming, territorial chief environmental health officer. The bugs do not pose a significant health risk, because they have never been shown to spread disease.
“They’re not considered a public health hazard that way,” said Fleming. “However, they can cause anxiety – people are afraid to fall asleep or they can interrupt your sleep.”
Bedbugs, which grow to about five millimeters in size,feed on human blood, normally at nighttime.
“I can’t go to sleep at night without things crawling on me or feeling like things are crawling on me,” said LeBlanc. “It’s hell.”
Bedbugs are an ongoing pest problem in Yellowknife, and are not likely to be eradicated any time soon, said Fleming.
“It’s a worldwide epidemic. They exist everywhere,” said Fleming.
“Because people travel, they will always be bringing bedbugs to the Northwest Territories.”
Once thought to be nearly eradicated in North America, bedbugs have become a major problem worldwide over the last 10 years, said Fleming. Yellowknife and the rest of Canada’s North was one of the last places in the world to get them.
Officials with Northern Properties declined to comment for this story, however, the landlord does have detailed protocol that they follow whenever they are alerted to bedbugs in any of their units.
Within 24 hours, an initial inspection should be completed. The purpose of the inspection is to confirm there are, in fact, bedbugs there. They will also remove any badly contaminated furniture from the apartment, which will not be replaced by the rental company. The final step of the initial inspection is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth – the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae –on the floors of the unit and possibly other infected areas.
A full treatment is then scheduled with the Orkin Man, who visits Yellowknife every two weeks.
During a bedbug outbreak in 2010, the same Orkin Man was responsible for curbing a large outbreak of bedbugs, and before last month had not missed a Yellowknife visit in years, said a source who did not want to be named.
There were apparently 25 Northern Property units infested with bedbugs in 2010, while in the month of January, there were six units scheduled to be treated for the pests. These figures could not be confirmed, however. It is also unlikely that Northern Property units are the only ones currently infested with bed bugs.
In Yellowknife, the bugs can be found in any type of dwelling, said Fleming. Factors such as cleanliness and type of residence have very little affect on whether a home will get bedbugs. However, it is possible for the bugs to spread between units in an apartment building.
“If there is a small opening like a crack, they can move from one room to another or one apartment to another,” said Fleming.
The best way to prevent bedbugs is to be very careful about what comes into your home, said Fleming, especially after travelling or when bringing used furniture into a home. Inspect these items carefully and wash them with hot water to keep these pests at bay.