The Ramsgate business sniffing out bedbug infestations with specially trained dogs

Carl at work with one of his dogs

A Ramsgate family business say they have a nose for sniffing out bedbug infestations – or more accurately several noses in the shape of their specially trained dogs.

Pestbusters, run by Carl Morris and daughter Gemma with wife Eileen taking care of admin, says it is the only company in Thanet, and possibly Kent, to use dogs to track down where the bedbug infestations are.

Carl, 64, said: “A bedbug does not jump or fly, it crawls and it is full of blood. This means it leaves a scent and the dogs can smell them and I have trained my dogs to pick up the scent. At first I trained them to bark when they had the scent but when you are in hotels or warden assisted areas the barking isn’t always good so I trained the next two to sit when they found them.

“They sit and when I say ‘touch’ they touch the area with their noses so we know exactly where they are.”

Carl has six dogs, two spaniels, two terriers and two lurchers, all of which he breeds and trains himself. He also has a male and female bird of prey which are all used within his pest control business.

The dad-of-three says he has an advantage when treating infestations as his manufacturing business background has given him the knowledge to create his three part treatment.

He said: “Most people do one or two treatments, we do three. I took it (treatments) back to the drawing board so now there are three parts. I take the dogs to find the infestation and then we festoolise (using a kind of vacuum). Then we go in and check where they were, festoolise all the way through and then use another treatment where they were found and then use a different chemical.

“Then there is a final treatment and we go right the way through using a treatment with a strong residual.”

Carl says it is important to remove stigma because bedbugs can happen anywhere and to anyone, with bugs able to be passed as easily as sitting on a chair in a surgery or on public transport.

Gemma said: “Bed bugs are definitely hitting Thanet hard and a lot of people are suffering with them. We specialise in hotels, care homes, HMOs, Air b&bs and we also do a lot in homes around Thanet and surrounding areas.”

Last month there was a reported outbreak of bedbugs in Paris and other French cities as well as increased reports in Spain.

A scientific review published last year says there has been a “global resurgence of bedbugs, involving the common bedbug  and the tropical bedbug,  over the past two decades believed to be primarily due to the development of insecticide resistance, along with global travel and poor pest management, which have contributed to their spread.”

Carl says he gives talks at warden assisted facilities and homes to help people understand bedbug infestations are not to do with a person being clean or not.

He said: “I take in my dog and do a 20 or 30 minute talk with slides and then people can ask questions, I make sure all staff and carers know they are welcome to join as that means they can be vigilant especially for older people who maybe can’t see so well, so I tell them what to look out for.

“It may not be as bad now but there was a lot of stigma attached to bedbugs but with people travelling on trains, planes, taxis, it only needs someone in the seat before and a bug attaching to your clothes and then they are laying eggs, they hatch and you have an infestation.

“People don’t always understand that, I have had elderly ladies in bits when calling me to their homes, but it is just one of those things.”

Carl says his company has one of the best resolution rates and makes sure he leaves people with a list of suggestions on how to keep their properties clear.

Carl, who says keeping animals has always been a part of his life, says he feels blessed to be able to turn that into his career. He also has an interest in managing beehives, and offers other pest control management through “a natural, organic and sustainable approach.”

Gemma added: “We have a hawk that we use for our greener approach, our bird abatement program is very popular with local businesses that have problems with seagulls and pigeons.”

The hawk is used to discourage birds such as pigeons and seagulls nesting at certain sites.

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Tips (these actions will help but infestations will likely need treatment)

  • wash affected bedding and clothing on a hot wash (60C) and tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes

  • put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for 3 or 4 days

  • clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early

  • do not keep clutter around your bed

  • do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first

  • do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs

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