Pearl the springer spaniel searches for bed bugs as handler Barbara Hayden looks on

EXTERMINATORS have noticed a dramatic rise in the number of bed-bug infestations in Ireland, with the hotel sector particularly affected by this growing problem.

Complete Pest Control, based in Dublin, now has two springer spaniels which have been trained to assist in identifying bed bugs.

The increase is across the domestic and business sector in Ireland, particularly the hospitality sector. The rise in the prevalence of bed bugs is due in part to people returning from New York, which is suffering from a mass infestation of the insects.

"The problem is so serious that we have two springer spaniels who have been trained to identify bed bugs. A lot of the call-outs we are dealing with are from people who have returned from New York carrying the insects. Traditionally, this is the time when a lot of Irish people go to New York shopping and they are unwittingly bringing back the insects," said Trevor Hayden, owner of Complete Pest Control.

New York has been hit with a near epidemic of bedbugs, with some of the city's top hotels having to call in the fumigators.

Bed bugs are oval-shaped insects the size of apple pips. They are visible to the eye but hide in crevices and come out at night to feed on blood for up to five minutes while people sleep.

They then hide in beds, lampshades, carpets, alarm clocks, under floorboard cracks and in clothing. Bed bugs can survive for up to a year without feeding.

Complete Pest Control has had a huge increase in calls in recent months.

"We are the only company in the country to have dedicated bed-bug dogs. We bring our dogs in and they can identify immediately if there are bed bugs present," Hayden said.

"There is still a lot of stigma attached to having bed bugs. For clients in the commercial sector, such as hotels, we call out to them in unmarked vans. We then use a spray treatment to kill the bed bugs and depending on the severity of the problem, between two and four treatments can be necessary."

Many people have bed bugs for several months before they realise the problem. The insects leave marks similar to mosquito bites. Often, after it becomes severe, people visit their doctors and the problem is then identified.

"I personally would rather have a rat in my house than bed bugs. We have visited places where there are over 100 of the insects and people are being eaten alive by them at night and are covered in bites," said Hayden.

Recently, Complete Pest Control carried out a spray treatment in a taxi driver's car operating out of Dublin airport because an infestation had taken place.