Bed bug complaints rise in Cuyahoga County, dog named Bella sniffs them out

CLEVELAND - Professional dog trainer and handler Gary Broberg worked with his Golden Labrador, Bella, on the concrete front steps of his Berea home Thursday. He asks her, "where's Fred?" Fred his command for bed bug scents.

She senses the pill bottle Broberg holds in his hand, filled with a couple bed bugs for training. Normally "Fred" sounds like a pleasant enough name, but this Fred is filled with blood from the last meal of human blood he devoured.

Broberg and Bella recently worked with an apartment owner to find bed bugs in a home the owner had just emptied of all furniture, also having it treated by a pest control company with chemicals to kill them.

"I brought Bella in and she went right to the middle of the main room to let me know she had a bed bug hit," Borberg said. "The owner said I was crazy, no way she was right. The next day, he pulled up the carpet. He called me to apologize and say that Bella was right. The bed bugs were all together in a huge group under the middle of the carpet. They had run from the chemicals sprayed along the wall and went as far away from that as possible. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, hiding."

Broberg has been working with scents for dogs for decades, and over four years with bed bugs. His business is constant. Women, he said, call him exasperated after intense cleaning and chemical treatments are unsuccessful.

The bugs will hide or crawl anywhere to avoid normal pest control methods. The methods the Cuyahoga Board of Health and Broberg suggest are either extreme heat indoor treatments, 121 to 130 degrees, which kills them in minutes, or diatamatious earth treatments, which they must walk through. Heat, he said, is the best way to go for homeowners.

"If a pest control man tells you different, he's lying," explained Broberg.

For the Cuyahoga Board of Health supervisor of environmental health services, Rick Novickis, educating the public on how to combat the tiny blood sucking creatures is their main pest control task next month. Cleveland ranks in the top 15 most-bedbug-infested cities nationwide. Cincinnati ranks numbers 1 and 2 in both Terminix and Orkin national rankings.

"Here locally. we are trying to get the education out to the public, " said Novickis. "We are having out third conference on November 15th."

The Cuyahoga County Bed Bug Task Force (CCBBTF) conference will held in Middleburg Heights this year at the Grace Christian & Missionary Alliance Church at 7393 Pearl Road. The Nov. 15 event will hold its registration is from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m followed by the conference 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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