Family Discovers Bed Bug Infestation at Grinnell Hotel

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

This photo provided by Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, taken in 2008, shows mother and child bed bugs. The federal government is waking up to what has become a growing nightmare in many parts of the country _ a bed bug outbreak. The tiny reddish-brown insects, last seen in great numbers prior to World War II, are on the rebound. They have infested college dormitories, hospital wings, homeless shelters and swanky hotels from New York City to Chicago to Washington. (AP Photo/Tim McCoy, Virginia Tech Department of Entomology)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The bed bug infestation problem is all over the news these days. But is the problem actually growing—or are people simply more aware of tiny insects and quicker to suspect a problem? One Cedar Rapids family found themselves caught up in that question last weekend. And they didn’t just suspect a bed bug problem during a motel stay in Grinnell. They captured both pictures and video—and some of the bugs themselves.

Kathy Techau, said she loves to travel. But her travel “bug” took a turn for the worse during a recent family event in Grinnell. Techau said she, an adult daughter and five children were sharing one motel room. It was very late at night and all the lights were out except for one reading lamp. Techau said several of the kids were restless—constantly tossing and turning on the bed. All of a sudden one three-year-old sat up and made an announcement.

Techau said “pretty soon my foster daughter pounced on her pillow, like a little cat, and I said what are you doing? And she said—bed bug.”

Usually bed bugs are hard to find and hide at the first sign of lights. People don’t know they’ve been bitten by the flat tick-like insects until they see marks on arms or legs later.

But Techau said she grabbed a camera and started taking still pictures and video of the bugs crawling on the bedding, headboard and walls. She also captured some of the bugs in a medicine vial to serve as proof later. The family quickly abandoned the infested motel room and immediately cleaned all the clothing at home later.

“We were afraid to bring everything to the house,” Techau said adding “we didn’t want to carry them in the house so we stopped at a laundromat, threw everything in a dryer and let it run for two or three hours.”

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Ruby Perin, healthy homes program director at Linn County Public Health, typically gets the bed bug calls for the county. Perin looked at the captured bugs and said it appears they are the seldom-seen bed bugs. But samples need to go to entomologists at Iowa State University for confirmation. Perin said calls about this kind of problem have stepped up—both since flooding in Cedar Rapids in 2008 and also more recently with all the national stories about bed bugs.

“Pest control companies I talk to say they didn’t receive calls as recently as 1999. But now they are receiving calls—up to 20 a day,” Perin said. Perin said if she had to guess…she’d say it’s a mixture of both more cases and more people on the lookout for bugs.

Techau is still haggling with the motel about a refund and the cost of a substitute motel room. The motel owner in Grinnell said workers looked for bed bugs in the Techau’s room—and couldn’t find any. But they called in a professional exterminator to treat the room anyway.

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