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Using dogs in the battle against Bed Bugs

December 4, 2012
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.

Just a children's good-night rhyme or an omen for all of us to heed?

Apparently, according to increasing reports of bed bug infestations moving north, it's the latter.

Article Photos

Trish Iverson gives Castle her reward for making her find.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

And Steve and Trish Iverson of Estherville are doing something about it.

The Iversons have started Bed Bugs Uncovered, a service that uses K-9 detectors (in the case of the Iversons, German shepherds) in residential and commercial locations.

It all started when Trish got a German shepherd for tracking seven years ago. The Iversons had wanted to get into early drug detection. It was while training in Kansas City with her dog, Eden, that she met a couple who were training dogs to detect bed bugs. And when she learned that it's not possible to insure for a bed bug infestation, something clicked.

So she decided to see where the bed bug trail led.

The couple she had met while training in Kansas City invited her and Eden to do on-the-job training with their company, Dog Inspectors, in Tennessee.

"Eden and I have probably inspected 500 cabins," Trish said. That's in addition to retirement homes, theaters and schools and even the main library in Knoxville, Tenn. - a two-day job.

While bed bugs normally like a warmer climate, with global temperatures warming they've been moving north. And while there's a stigma, the creatures can be found in any hotel or motel - anywhere. One of the clients for the couple for whom Trish was working had places in Manhattan, Florida and Italy.

"The rich people with their ability to travel are as much to blame as the poor people," said Trish.

In addition to Eden, 7 1/2, the Iversons now have Lexie, 7; Nile, 2 1/2 and Castle, 1 1/2 - all German shepherds. They're in the process of getting two more puppies since after about age 8 dogs lose a lot of their energy.

Since Trish was raised with German shepherds, she has a natural affinity for working with them. Labs, by contrast, get too easily distracted, she said. "I just like German shepherds," she admitted.

Like people, dogs have their particular styles. Trish said while Nile does a floor-first search Castle holds her head high.

So why so many dogs?

Steve said they plan on always using two dogs to avoid any false alerts.

So where are bed bugs most commonly found?

Well, like a lot of other hitchhikers, they seem to turn up where there's a lot of travelers. Motels in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, just at the north entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, probably the most-visited National Park in the US, have an estimated infestation rate of 60-70 percent, Trish said. Bugs were even found in a hospital in the area, she said.

As for our region, there aren't a lot of other similar bed bug detection services here. Trish said the closest would be Des Moines where there's a combination dog detection and pest control service. She also noted similar services in Omaha and Ohio who use beagles.

To train their dogs, the Iversons use sealed vials with fine screens that allow the dogs to sniff out the bugs that remain sealed up. Trish said all the vials of bed bugs they use in training were found in Emmet County. And they're hard to detect. Trish said 30 percent of people won't have any reaction at all. Bites can cause large itchy welts on skin. And Trish said bed bugs can reproduce in 30 days - something that makes it easy to see how an infestation can happen.

Once the bugs are detected, the home or business owner can then contact an exterminator.

To contact Bed

Bugs Uncovered, contact or call (712) 362-5461, (712) 209-1082 or (712) 209-0414.



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