Bed bugs: Some tie energy workers to increase in lodging pests

Bed bugs at the CSU Extension office.

Increasing numbers of bed bugs have been checking into Grand Junction area hotels in recent years.

Nationwide, complaints of bedbugs — tiny wingless creatures that drink the blood of warm-blooded animals under a cloak of darkness — have been on the rise. In Mesa County, there have been 14 complaints of bedbugs in hotels and motels since 2006. In the four years prior there were just two complaints from lodgers, according to the Mesa County Health Department.

“I’ve been here 15 years, and I’ve seen bedbugs once prior to 2002,” said Thomas Orr, zoonosis program coordinator for the Health Department.

The Monument Inn has had the most complaints, seven, filed with the Health Department in the past two years.

“A lot of people are bringing them in from the oil fields,” said Heather Espinoza, manager at the Monument Inn.

Any hotel that welcomes energy workers for extended stays is taking a risk, said Charles Chapman, general manager of Country Inns of America, which had two complaints of suspected bedbugs.

“It can shut down a hotel in a hurry,” Chapman said.

Chapman said his company only recently acquired the Country Inns of America. The hotel now contracts with one energy company, which can occupy more than 90 percent of its rooms.

Energy officials balked at the notion their workers are spreading bedbugs.

“You know, the oil and gas industry has pretty broad shoulders and gets blamed for a lot, but I’m pretty sure you can’t blame us for childhood obesity, the Broncos’ offense or an increase in bedbugs,” said Kristi Pollard, spokeswoman for Chevron.

Orr said he could not confirm that energy workers are the source of any bedbug infestations.

Bob Hammon, area extension agent for the Colorado State University Cooperative
Extension, acknowledges they are a nationwide problem, saying he gets calls every month from homeowners about bedbugs. But he disagrees with the notion there is a link between bedbugs and the energy industry.

“There are just a lot of people, of all sorts, moving around,” Hammon said.

But Dan Saunders, owner of Western Slope Pest Control, said he has exterminated bedbugs from several local establishments and said there is an oil and gas field connection.

One recent call for Saunders involved Powderhorn Inn and Resorts. After several energy workers lodged there, he was called to deal with bedbugs.

Powderhorn threw out the rooms’ mattresses, and Saunders said he treated the rest with pesticide.

“Generally, you can’t get rid of them with one treatment,” Saunders said.

Powderhorn Resort management did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Although bedbug bites can be painful and leave itchy, red welts, they are not known to spread disease.

“We don’t really consider them a public health threat,” Orr said. “I would say they are a nuisance.”


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