Inquisitiveness, leather trousers and shooting sticks

We had a great conversation with UK bed bug specialist David Cain last week and the transcript is finally available.

Here are some of the highlights (for the full transcript see above link).

On the practical difficulties of inspecting adjoining properties when only one tenant is the client:

In the initial phase we have no choice but to treat individual apartments as one-off infestations. So, we assume that the occupants of the flat have come into contact with them external to the property, maybe in a hotel or while they’ve been travelling, and that it’s only their unit that’s infected, but as part of our procedures we make sure that they are aware that by using us they need to communicate the problem with their neighbors if it’s persistent, or, if when we inspect the property, they haven’t been on holiday for a couple of years, they haven’t come into likely sources where they may have been exposed to bed bugs [...] we will ask them to start communicating with their adjoining neighbors, to educate them about the problem of bed bugs, to explain to them that you don’t have to wait until you are being bitten to have bed bugs, they can be in there, and you may be in the majority of people that don’t respond to the bites. We also make it a principle that if we need to come back for a third visit, that we gain access to all adjoining properties to do an inspection, to make sure that they aren’t in fact the source.

On the core skills of a specialist bed bug pest controller/PCO:

The best skills that I can recommend are people who are inquisitive, people who want to actually investigate the problem, who want to get to the bottom of what’s going on, and understand things before they start producing chemicals, before they start trying to treat the property, because it’s only by having those attention to detail skills, to look and observe the situation of the environment that they’re working in, do they understand the implications and ramifications of the treatment they’ve put in place. So, attention to detail is first and foremost; very good eyesight is also highly important, because I don’t want any of my people missing things like fecal trace signs, which, let’s face it, we’re often looking for something which is only a millimeter in diameter in a very, very large room [...] a willingness to actually listen to what customers have to say, to understand how they could have potentially come into contact with bed bugs in the first instance, and then finally the last thing I look at on my list is experience in pest control, because you can teach anyone to follow our methods with time, by taking them out in the field and saying, hey, look at this particular room, this is where we predict bed bugs will be present, but this is the methodology that you must follow each time to actually investigate the process, because the chemical treatment aspect of it, to be honest, is probably only 10% of what I think a successful treatment program entails.

On what it will take to achieve control of bed bugs in our cities:

People have to understand what bed bugs are. They have to understand that they have nothing to do with the cleanliness of your home. That they’re an exposure pest. They have to understand what to look for. What signs they may see on furniture in the street. What signs to check for in second-hand furniture. What to look for when they’re checking into a hotel. Because the only thing that we can do to stop the spread of this is to stop the number of people getting infected with bed bugs. And once we get to a stage where people know what to look for, are looking for the signs, are checking their homes on a regular basis, we will start to bring the number of exposure events that are occurring down and under control. And that’s gonna take the media, having articles, factual programs on the television about it, it’s got to come out from public health departments. It needs to be a major drive because unfortunately just on the evidence I’ve seen alone over the last three years, we’re not even scratching the surface here, we’re not dealing with the new infestations that are occurring, and we’re not getting to the bottom of the active and long-term infestations [...] So for me, if you want to stop the spread of bed bugs within any community, the entire planet, education I personally believe is the only answer.

On the anxiety of former bed bug sufferers about the risk of exposure in public places:

It’s about possibility of infestation and probability of infestation. Now, as people will know from where they’ve picked up bed bugs, whether it’s hotel rooms, whether it’s friends’ houses, pieces of furniture, the many myriad of ways that you can get bed bugs, are all possible. In the grand scheme of things, you also have to look at the probability. Now, because they’re an exposure pest [...] if you don’t come into contact with them, then you won’t get bed bugs. So, if you take a flashlight with you to the cinema, and you spend 3 or 4 minutes checking your seat, before you sit down, and the seats around you, then the bottom line is, if you’ve done a good inspection, you are at low probability of picking them up by that route, but it’s still possible to do so. So, this is why I say, check everywhere and reduce that probability of being infected, and focus less on the possibility of being infected. If you look at everything that is a possible transmission route, you’d never leave your house ever again, because you’d be constantly fearful about any seat that you go to sit in, any area or public space which is used by other people, so it’s a matter of trying to keep it in check, and looking at it realistically, and saying, well, if I go out there prepared and ready to look for problems, then I’m not going to stumble into one that becomes a problem I take home.

On leather trousers and shooting sticks:

David Cain: I also am a bit well known for wearing black, leather trousers. Which is partly because they’re very protective clothing [...] and the second aspect is that [...] bed bugs don’t particularly like leather, because it’s a difficult material for them to climb up and therefore a good stamp of my feet before leaving the property [...]

NYvsBB: We’ll have to add leather trousers to our holiday shopping list this year…

David Cain: Well, I think they are coming back in fashion. My second bed bug fashion tip of the year has to be shooting sticks. You know these seats which fold out of a walking stick? [...]

I predict we’re going to be seeing an awful lot more of those over the coming years as well. It’s easier to take your seat with you than to constantly be inspecting it in public.

NYvsBB: [laughter] Shooting sticks?

A shooting stick. Photo: Avalon Guns.


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  2. nobugs

    Excellent interview: Thanks to David for taking the time! And to Renee for the extensive task of transcribing. Excellent questions.

    I have to ask David: why do bed bugs infest leather sofas?

    I suppose they can more or less avoid walking on leather itself, since there’s all that cloth and webbing and other stuff down there.

  3. bedbugscouk


    Bed Bugs will infest leather sofa’s they will infest almost any material where:

    1 There is a regular source of food (people)
    2 The climate is not to cold or dry for them

    I have however found that in the case of leather furniture they are less likely to be found in the seams and tufts compared with fabric materials.

    I also find that the smoother surface means they are more likely to drop off if I stamp my feet when I leave the infected location that colleagues wearing fabric clothes.

    That combined with the fact that they match the seat on my shooting stick means I am certainly colour co-ordinated.

    I guess its one of those that may be part scientific theory and part fashion statement but after all these years only having 4 Bed Bugs make it home with me is a major result.


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