Hotels and homeowners have turned to specially trained Sniffer dogs to detect bedbug infestations that can hide in bedroom cracks and crevices. Concerns have arisen about the increasing prevalence of bedbug infestations in the UK, as the COVID-19 pandemic initially led to a decline in their spread due to reduced travel and hotel closures. However, with the reopening of the world, dormant bedbug populations have started to rebound, albeit not yet to pre-pandemic levels.
This resurgence has prompted a wave of disgust and, at times, trauma for those affected. However, it has resulted in a mini-boom for specialized UK firms utilizing trained sniffer dogs to identify bedbug infestations in locations ranging from private residences to luxury hotels.
Gary Jakeman, the CEO of K9 Detection Services in Solihull, West Midlands, has two trained springer spaniels, Milo and Kobie, who are in high demand by hotel owners and individuals suspicious of bedbugs on their premises. Jakeman reports a 25% increase in callouts since June, attributing their success to the dogs’ exceptional olfactory abilities.
Training a dog to detect bedbugs takes around 12 to 18 months, following a process similar to training dogs for detecting drugs, explosives, and money stashes. In the case of bedbugs, dogs identify a pheromone emitted by the insects to facilitate grouping. Dr. Richard Naylor, the director of the Bed Bug Foundation, confirms the pungent and distinctive smell produced by these pheromones.
Bedbugs tend to remain within a meter of where they feed, often found near the head of the bed. Locating them with just a flashlight and good eyesight can be a time-consuming process, taking hours. Trained Sniffer dogs , however, can identify or exclude their presence within minutes.
Signs of bedbugs
The most common signs of bedbugs are itchy, swollen bites in those who react to them, but other indications include specks of bedbug feces or blood on bed sheets. The insects themselves may remain hidden unless a thorough inspection disassembles the bed, examining all joints and recesses. Jakeman recalls discovering them in TV remote controls and plug sockets.
Though physically harmless, a bedbug infestation can be emotionally distressing. It leads to isolation, shame, and sleep deprivation, with lingering psychological effects. Brian Leith of BDL Canine Services works with Benji, a springer-cocker spaniel mix, to inspect rooms when hotels receive bedbug complaints, dispelling the misconception that infestations are associated with poor living conditions.
While data indicates a genuine increase in bedbug infestations due to travel, insecticide resistance, and secondhand furniture purchases, a more pronounced rise in complaints may be fueled by media attention and an overreaction to sightings, particularly in France.
Naylor anticipates that cases will return to pre-pandemic levels within a couple of years, but Jakeman predicts another surge in calls, especially after the Rugby World Cup concludes, with the return of travelers from France. Jakeman suggests that many of the callouts do not lead to bedbug discoveries, but the fear factor intensifies the issue.
In conclusion, trained dogs have become indispensable in identifying bedbug infestations, helping individuals and establishments alike deal with this persistent and unpleasant problem.