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Dogs track down bedbugs

By Lyndsey Price, lprice@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 07 2013 04:30:03 PM CDT

Small insects that are hard to see and come out during the night frighten many people, especially if you get bitten by one.

BRISTOL, Va. -

Small insects that are hard to see and come out during the night frighten many people, especially if you get bitten by one.

Bedbugs fall into that category. After some of them were found in the Bristol Public Library, many people were left scratching their heads and wondering how you get rid of them for good.

We learned people call in help from some furry friends to sniff them out. News 5 learned dogs are 95 percent more effective when it comes to finding bed bugs than people.

Bedbugs are hard to find on any type of furniture; they look just like an apple seed in color and size.

However, dogs have a secret weapon. "If it has a unique odor a K-9 can be trained to detect it, and then let us know the odor is there. In this case they are trained to detect bedbugs," said Dodson’s Pest Control K-9 handler Jim Carawan.

Ginny is man's best friend for more than one reason, but the main reason she pals around with Carawan is she can find bedbugs anywhere. "They're using their nose. They don't trust their eyes very much or really anything else; it's all about the odor," said Carawan.

So how can dogs like Ginny know what scent they are looking for? "They are first trained to locate a tennis ball, then eventually during the training their desire to locate that tennis ball is replaced with the odor of bedbugs," said Carawan.

Bedbugs don't have a very strong odor. We put Ginny to the test by hiding a bottle of bedbugs in the Bristol Public Library and turning her loose. "If the cushions haven't been removed from the furniture they'll just put their face down in there to try and get the odor out," explained Carawan.

Ginny found the bugs in no time at all in two different places -- a magazine and chair. "When dogs alert they know if they've found the proper odor, they are going to be rewarded with play and praise," said Carawan.

To figure out which dog in a litter will make the best bedbug finder, the trainers pull a tennis ball out when they are puppies. The ones who drop everything else and only look at the ball will be the most effective bug hunters.

So how did the library get rid of the bed bugs?  Unfortunately, pest control experts tell us you just have to throw out everything that's infested.

As of right now, the problem appears to be gone at the library.