By Julia Williams
When I was young, my mother used to recite the ditty “Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite” as part of our bedtime ritual. Now, I didn’t actually know what a bed bug was, in fact I didn’t even know such a bug even existed, but the saying always made me giggle. Bed bugs were mostly a legend back then, as the pests were largely eradicated in the U.S. by pesticides like DDT. Bed bugs remained a problem overseas, however, and travelers unknowingly brought them back to the states. As a result, bed bug cases have surged in recent years, so much so that some say we’re experiencing a “bed bug epidemic.” Pest control companies now have a new weapon to wage war on these biting bedfellows: dogs! That’s right – dogs are being trained to use their incredible olfactory ability to pinpoint where the nibbling critters and their eggs are hiding in homes, hotels and businesses.
Can Dogs Really Sniff Out These Microscopic Pests?
Of course they can! Detection dogs have become highly proficient at finding bombs, drugs, people, weapons and even certain types of cancer. Bed bug “detective work” is just another way we can use their exceptional sense of smell to benefit mankind. Not only that, but dogs can locate these pests quicker and more efficiently than humans can, thanks to a nose that some call “cutting edge technology.”
A dog’s sense of smell is said to be more than 1,000 times more sensitive than ours. In fact, a dog’s sense of smell is so acute it can even detect odors that scientific instruments can’t. Train the canines to sniff out bed bugs, and these pests don’t stand a chance!
Why Bed Bug Detection Dogs Trump Humans
The feeble human nose is unable to detect the smell of bed bugs, and must rely on a visual inspection. However, because the critters are so small – newly hatched bed bugs are about the size of a pen tip – finding physical evidence can be like looking for that proverbial needle in a haystack. It can take a mere mortal several hours or more to conduct a visual inspection, whereas a well trained bed bug detection dog can sweep a room in minutes. Moreover, pinpointing the exact location of bed bugs in a home or business reduces both the amount of chemicals used and the treatment costs.