New covers take aim at bedbugs

Posted May 31, 2010, at 8:05 p.m.
Russell Manton. Image made on Thursday, May 13, 2010 at Manton's Morrill headquarters for Global Interiors. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT
Russell Manton. Image made on Thursday, May 13, 2010 at Manton's Morrill headquarters for Global Interiors. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT

MORRILL, Maine — The easiest way to get rid of pesky bedbugs, which have seen a resurgence in recent years, is to spray with toxic pesticides or use a concentrated heat source to kill them.

Unfortunately, those methods are usually expensive.

But there is another way: A thin, polypropylene material that covers mattresses or pillows, which keeps the insects from their food source — unwitting sleepers — can be had for about $20.

As luck would have it, those covers are sold by a company in the coastal town of Morrill, just outside Belfast, and by year’s end, the covers are expected to be manufactured there as well.

Russell Manton, president of Global Interiors, has been working with the hotel industry worldwide since 2005 to provide Save-A-Bed covers.

“We looked at the industry and saw potential, so we began looking for a way to meet that demand,” Manton said recently from his office in Morrill, which also is home to his other business, SureTech Lock LLC, which specializes in keyless lock systems. “Right now, our product is manufactured in China, but we’re moving op-erations here to Maine.”

The addition of a bedbug cover production facility, an investment of about $150,000 for Manton, could add 15 jobs in the midcoast region.

“It will cost a little more to produce them here, but we really wanted to bring jobs back to Maine,” he said. “Certainly, it will be more convenient, and having that ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ tag seems to matter more and more.”

Bedbugs, while unpleasant to talk or think about, are still prevalent in certain areas and, because of their transient nature, they can show up unannounced at any time. Bangor’s public health office announced last month that the city has seen a rise in reports of bedbugs.

“I don’t think the general public thinks of our region as an area that has bedbugs,” Public Health Director Patty Hamilton said. “Historically, bedbugs have been more of an issue in the South, but in the last three years or so, I’ve had an increasing number of calls, even from people away from Bangor.”

Ela Voluck with the National Pest Management Association said bedbug infestations have risen 70 percent nationwide since 2001.

“As travel season kicks in, people need to be especially aware of this hitchhiking pest, which can be brought home from hotels and motels,” she said.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, bedbugs, or Cimex lectularius, are flat, wingless, red-brown, bloodsucking insects that can grow up to one-quarter inch in length and can live for up to one year.

Bedbugs hide in cracks and crevices of beds, furniture, floors and even walls. Unlike lice, bedbugs are not usually found on people or clothing. The bugs do not transmit disease, but their bites cause small, itchy red bumps on the skin’s surface, although some people have no reaction to bites. The insects also are quite resilient, and they multiply prodigiously.

A survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association conducted in May 2007 confirmed that now 97 percent of the public does believe bedbugs exist. One of the major hurdles in dealing with bedbugs has been the public’s resistance in believing they are real. NPMA believes the significant resurgence in bedbugs is related to increased international travel and more targeted pest management practices.

The Save-A-Bed covers, which at the moment are marketed to hotels and motels rather than the general public, offer an alternative to traditional pest control. Manton said market tests on his product found that they deter 95 percent of bedbugs.

Manton, who is originally from Scotland and travels all over the world on business, said he takes bedbug covers with him whether he stays in a five-star hotel or a run-down motel.

For information, visit the Global Interiors website: www.save-a-bed.com.

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