Bedbugs a costly nuisance near U

As bedbug problems grow, a controversy builds around who will pay to rid homes of the pests.

Bedbugs may only be a quarter-inch long, but the bill for a thorough extermination could cost more than $1,000, which one University of Minnesota student refused to pay. A 10 a.m. discussion Thursday at Coffman Union, to be led by Dr. Stephen Kells, a University assistant professor and researcher on bedbugs, will cover how to deal with hazards the bugs pose to low-income neighborhoods, like student housing around the University. Though bedbugs are more commonly thought of as subway or low-income housing problems in major cities, the problem is too close to home for one University linguistics junior who moved into a property with the bugs. The junior, who remains unnamed for fear of retribution from his landlord, filed for a constructed eviction and moved out. He said the landlord fumigated without success before he moved in and wouldnâÄôt pay for expensive âÄî but more thorough âÄî treatment to remove the bugs. Kells, who worked in the extermination business before becoming an assistant professor, said the best way to eliminate the bugs is through a concert of methods, but the most effective way is through heat. While pesticides may eliminate bugs on visible surfaces, heat treatments âÄîwhich can run up to $3,000 âÄî illuminate bugs that are harder to find. Kells said he has found bedbugs on smoke detectors, thermostats and behind picture frames âÄî areas pesticides rarely treat. Transportable room-heating machines can run upwards of $54,000, said Edward LoCascio, product manager for Temp Air, based in Burnsville . Temp Air is the leading creator of bug-exterminating transportable heaters. âÄúEven though theyâÄôve been treated three times [with pesticides], theyâÄôre still surviving, because they found a way to hide,âÄù LoCascio said. For that reason, Temp Air created a system that raises room temperature for a short period, which draws the bugs out of their hiding spaces and toward the heater. When the bugs are in the open, heaters and fans crank the heat up to 140 degrees for six hours, killing all the bugs. Because of the large cost, Carol Jacobsen, one of University Student Legal ServiceâÄôs lawyers who is helping put on the discussion, said she thought ThursdayâÄôs presentation would be a good place for landlords to gather and think about purchasing a communal heating machine. But some landlords donâÄôt see bedbugs as a problem. Jason Klohs , a University-area landlord, said if the bugs were something previous tenants left behind, he would take care of it, but he wouldnâÄôt help pay for the heater. âÄúThe age-old adage that cleanliness is next to godliness is true,âÄù he said. But if the current residents brought in the bugs, he said he wouldnâÄôt pay for any treatment. âÄúI wouldnâÄôt touch it. If you created the problem, you fix it,âÄù he said. âÄúWhy should I incur an expense if you donâÄôt vacuum or clean?âÄù