Bed Bugs Beware! U.S. Battles Bloodsucking Pests

The nightmare-inducing skin drillers are back nationwide -- with a vengeance.

ByABC News
April 6, 2010, 5:56 PM

April 29, 2010— -- Smaller than an apple seed, resilient as a cockroach, bloodthirsty as a vampire. Bed bugs: the cringe-inducing skin-drillers are back, nationwide, with a vengeance.

They're in Fort Worth, Texas, where earlier this month, 200 people were permanently forced from an apartment building after a year-long bed bug battle. The city housing authority spent a half-million dollars trying to rid the building of the pests. It didn't work.

They're in Seattle, where bed bug calls to exterminators are up some 70 percent in the last two years.

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"They want your blood, and that's just that," one Seattle victim said. "They want to eat."

And they're in New York City, where there were nearly 11,000 bed bug complaints last year alone. Where blogs track and map the latest infestations.

"About 10 years ago you would probably have one call maybe a year, and now we get on average about 10 calls a day," said Ken Unger, owner of Suburban Pest Control in Yonkers, N.Y.

There are so many of the pests in New York City that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has established a bedbug advisory committee.

Meanwhile, a third species has been recruited to join the battle between humans and bugs -- dogs.

Among these dogs are Cruiser, a highly trained "puggle," and his cohort, a beagle named Freedom.

They're working dogs, trained to pick up a scent from bed bugs. Jeremy Ecker of is their owner and trainer. The rule for the dogs, he said, is simple: "Find a bug and get fed."

"The dogs only eat when they find bugs, so they always work, every day they're working, whether or not we have work, they're working," said Ecker. "They're not pets, so they have to work to eat."

Ecker is part of a growing number of owners of bed bug-sniffing dogs. He gets $350 a pop for every apartment and house his canines check for infestation.