CELEBRATION — Ken Koscicki knows exactly where to find them.
“You find out they’re in clothing store and restaurants,” he said. “In fact, I had to service one restaurant because they were in the seats.”
“They” are major pests, he noted — but they’re not people who are loud and rude, or fail to provide good tips, or annoy other customers. They are extremely annoying, though, Koscicki said — and they’re very bad for business.
“Movie theaters are getting them,” he said, “and they’ve had to shut down entire movie theaters because they’re in the seats.”
The pests that Koscicki has been so familiar with are bed bugs — insects that feed off human blood, and have a hideous tendency of popping up in places where they’re completely unwelcome, including Central Florida’s hotels, resorts and vacation homes.
“They don’t transmit disease, like mosquitoes do,” said Koscicki, the general manager for the Florida region of Steritech, a pest control company that has a local office at 4303 Vineland Road in Orlando.
“They’re a nuisance pest,” he said.
On Thursday, Koscicki outlined what his firm can do to get rid of bed bugs to a group that has every reason to be nervous about them: the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the trade group that represents managers of the region’s vacation homes, which are rented on a short term basis to tourists and business travelers. The association’s monthly meeting was held at the Mystic Dunes Golf Resort in Celebration.
Colin Young, the vice president of CFVRMA, said the association invited Koscicki to address them because bed bugs are a big concern for the entire industry.
“We all know them, and have heard about them,” Young said. “We’ve had a few issues reported within vacation homes, and they have been quite serious.”
Koscicki said the bad news is that there have always been bed bugs, and the even worse news is they have proven resistant to modern pesticides.
“Bed bugs have been around since the beginning of people, back to the caveman days,” he said.
The invention of DDT, an organochlorine insecticide, gave the bugs a run for their money, he said, although it did not succeed in eliminating out.
“DDT almost wiped them out,” he said. “But they never completely went away. Why the resurgence now? There’s been a big change in how we do pest control today.”
DDT was banned in 1972 at the dawn of the environmental movement, and pest control firms have been forced to rely on insecticides that are less potentially risky to ground or water contamination, Koscicki said.
“We want to be eco-sensitive,” he said. “We don’t want to throw too many chemicals out there. That’s a good thing. But it also has led to an increase in bed bugs. Why don’t pesticides work on bed bugs the way they do other insects? Bed bugs have a unique biology that makes the use of traditional pesticides more difficult, and they build up a resistance to them.”
In a region that attracts millions of national and international travelers every year, Koscicki said tourists often unknowingly bring them to local hotels and vacation homes in their luggage or clothing, never knowing the deadly pests they’re introducing to the local hospitality industry.
“Bed bugs are travelers only brought unknowingly into your establishment by guests and employers in infested luggage,” he said.
But once they get there, the potential havoc they can cause is serious, he added.
“The damage to your bottom line and brand is lost business from rooms out of circulation,” he said. “If the room is out of service, you’re not making revenue and money. You also have the threat of litigation, and damage to your brand. People have a long memory for bad experiences.”
To fight back, Steritech recommends a containerized heat treatment.
“Heat actually destroys the eggs as well,” he said. “We offer a 90-day guarantee, the industry average right now.”
There are no surefire ways to prevent all bed bugs, though, he added.
“Is there a way you’re going to keep them out of your home? The answer is no,” he said. “Even when you treat an entire room, there’s a risk you missed something.”
As for the pests themselves, “You can see them with the naked eye, but it isn’t easy,” he said. “A full grown adult bed bug is easily seen. It’s the size of a Johnny appleseed. You’re going to find them in your mattress. They conceal themselves in cracks, gaps and wall voids. They can live six months without feedings. They only feed off blood.”
Koscicki said he has plenty of experience tackling bed bugs.
“Most of the work I do is in higher end hotels, and they get them just as easily as the $35-a-night motels,” he said. “They are just moving around everywhere. After a feeding, they fatten up nicely. If you ever squish one, you get a nice explosion.”
Steritech has ways of finding out if there are bed bugs in a vacation home, he said — including use of sniffing dogs.
“We use canines frequently to do inspections,” he said. “Really, dogs can find bed bugs. They actually train them to find them in small amounts.”
To learn more, call 704-943-5414, or log on to Steritech.
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