Bed Bugs—Salina’s Hot Potato

A “hot potato” can be defined as a “sensitive situation or controversy that is difficult to handle and thus gets passes from one person to another (like a hot potato that is too hot to hold)”.  Area landlords and tenants are increasingly finding that they have to deal with bed bugs.  It is a challenge to get helpful information.

Landlord Seeks to Track Tenants with Bed Bug Issues

On August 29th, Larry Mattison spoke to the Saline County Commissioners to see if the Saline County Health Department could help them track tenants who have/had bed bug infestations.  Renters, who are moving to new apartments, may be leaving bed bugs behind and may bring them to their new dwelling.

Health Department Labels Bed Bugs as Pests

Because mosquitos bites carry disease (malaria, West Nile and Zika viruses), this is a public health matter.  Bed bugs bite and leave itchy bumps, but are considered to be pests.  Jason Tiller, director of the Saline County Health Department told County Commissioners on September 5th there isn’t much his agency can do, as there are no City or County ordinances.  There are two State ordinances that deal with lodging establishments.

He suggested these websites:

Tiller said individuals can take insects to the Kansas State Extension Service to have them identified.

Yep, That Is a Bedbug

Jason Graves, Horticulture Extension Agent helps people identify the bugs they bring to the Extension Office, which currently is located on the first floor of the City County Building at 300 W Ash.  However, the Extension Service is planning to move to the Kansas State Polytechnic campus perhaps in October.

When asked, he provided a three page K-State Research and Extension handout, Structural Pests Bed Bugs.  Among other things, it states:

  • Bed bugs are usually transported to new locations in suitcases, purses, backpacks, etc.
  • During early stages of infestations, bed bugs are most commonly found in or near the bed; as infestations increase, the bugs move away from the bed into other furniture, under the edge of carpeting, switch plates and outlets, and even inside phones, clocks and smoke detectors.
  • While laundering and drying clothing is effective, the handout instructs “DO NOT take clothing suspected to be infested to public laundries or dry cleaners, because this presents the risk of infesting nearby garments.”

When asked if a person can deal with bed bugs themselves or if they need to use an exterminator, Graves said individuals have to be persistent and go through multiple steps to address an infestation.  If the problem is caught soon, and the individual is careful in their inspections, and follows up as specified, they could treat their own infestation.  Otherwise, individuals may want to rely on an exterminator.

Graves recommended a publication by the Michigan Extension Service, called Getting Rid of Bed Bugs—A Guide to Controlling Bed Bugs.  It is a 26 page booklet that is available on the internet.

To Determine Whether an Exterminator is Licensed/Certified

The Kansas Department of Agriculture can help individuals determine if a local exterminator has any licenses/certificates for treating bed bugs.  However, they no longer have a field office in Salina.  They can be reached at

Who Pays for an Exterminator?

Steve Rivers, Supervisor of the City of Salina’s Community Relations, is use to fielding questions about bed bugs.  He says most people want to know if the tenant or the landlord is responsible for paying to treat an infestation.

Rivers said this issue often comes down to what one can prove.  Typically, the tenant is responsible for the treatment costs.  If a tenant just moved in, and finds evidence of bed bugs, the landlord would be off the hook if he could prove that the dwelling had been treated for bed bugs by a professional exterminator before the tenant moved in.  Rivers said that in some cases, the matter of who pays is resolved in civil court.

Rivers and his staff are located on the first floor of the City-County Building.  His phone number is 785-309-5745; his e-mail is [email protected].

Beware of Dumpster Diving

For a fee, the City will haul furniture and other unwanted possessions to the City’s Landfill.  Those seeking a “special pick-up” are instructed to move those items to a designated curb.  Before the City’s crews get there, sometimes “others” will remove the furniture.  Those found items may come with uninvited hitchhikers.

Individuals are being urged to carefully inspect any second hand or used furniture and clothing before bringing it into their home.

Consumers Must Be Aware

Both Graves and Rivers, as well as the County’s Health Advisory Council, warned consumers that they can be “gouged” into paying expensive prices for less than effective treatments.  Rivers said that an exterminator’s price quote may vary depending on whether an exterminator makes an assessment prior to quoting a price and if they will perform follow-up rechecks after the treatment.

Bed Bugs Can Drive Retail Sales

Those dealing with infestations may buy plenty of insecticides, anti-itch medications and extras such as protective allergen mattress, box spring and pillow encasements.  Those with bed bugs will also experience increased laundering and drying costs.  Prices quotes for an exterminator range from $700-$5,000.

Rumors of Bed Bugs Can Harm other Businesses

The public is justifiably wary of staying in hotels, motels, inns and dorms where there has been a rumor involving bed bugs. The same can be said for restaurants, entertainment venues, and public transportation.

Is It Time for a Hero?

With an uptick in inquiries about bed bugs, is it time for some government entity or community group to head an educational campaign?  There’s a lot of contradictory information circulating in our area.

What we ignore can thrive, especially when agencies treat bed bugs as a hot potato that someone else could address.  On September 19, the Saline County Commission gave no indication that they, or any county department, will help tackle this matter.


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