No, bedbugs are not a myth, and yes, they do exist in Summit County.
The problem doesn't seem to be widespread locally, but it is something that rears its head every now and then - sometimes, Mike Lott of Mountain Pest Control will go a few weeks without a call, and others, he'll get a half dozen in a week.
"Bedbugs introduce a lot of angst, a lot of stress," Lott said.
And when they do pop up, bedbugs are usually kept quiet, so people aren't necessarily very informed - something that led the Summit County Public Health Department to produce a "Myth Busters" video on the matter earlier this year.
The bugs are parasitic insects that prefer to feed on human blood, according to public health nurse Kristen Peterson, who hosted the video. They can be transported for short periods of time to homes through clothing, luggage and infested furniture, and can cause their hosts to wake up with red, itchy bite marks. And yes, they can survive in Summit County.
"Even in the coldest climates, bedbugs can still thrive," Peterson said in the video.
Bedbugs have not been proven to spread disease, even though they've been found to be infected with at least 30 human pathogens.
"When it does happen, it's more of a nuisance than anything," according to Steve Prosise, environmental health specialist for Summit County Public Health.
Infestation is much more common in housing complexes, since the bugs can travel throughout units. Anywhere that gets a lot of renters and visitors is more prone, according to Dennis Kassib, owner of Big Dog Bed Bug Detection Service in Summit County. Kassib uses a canine trained to sniff out the center of the problem, since usually, "the person that complains is not necessarily the source of the problem," he said. "If you don't check the whole building, you're not going to get rid of them."
Kassib doesn't get that many calls in Summit County - probably one or two a month - and usually from property managers who are trying to figure out the source. Prosise's department doesn't get many reports either, since it's not required. Individuals usually call an exterminator, like Lott, first.
Those who try to treat the problem themselves, with commercially available pesticides are usually not successful, Lott said - they act as a repellent, but don't take care of the problem.
Professional sprayings work, as does heat treatment. But the biggest advice Kassib has is to get a whole building checked, "even if they started in one unit," he said.