Walter has stopped hugging his friends. He is throwing out his clothes and furniture, and he rarely comes out of his Tenderloin hotel room anymore.
He’s not suicidal, but darn near. He has bedbugs.
Nearly eradicated in the United States 50 years ago, resistant strains of “super” bedbugs are infesting mattresses at an alarming rate. In what’s being touted as the biggest mystery in entomology, all 50 states are reporting outbreaks of the blood-sucking nocturnal critters.
Pest control companies nationwide reported a 71 percent increase in bedbug calls between 2000 and 2005. Left alone, a few bedbugs can create a colony of thousands within weeks.
“We never treated bedbugs until 2002. Now we have a dedicated bedbug crew working on this every day,” said Luis Agurto, president of Pestec in San Francisco.
Agurto’s arsenal includes a vacuum, steam heat to cook the bedbug eggs and targeted spraying of insecticides. It takes three, eight-hour visits and about $500 to $750 to exterminate one room. A whole house would cost closer to $5,000.