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'Bed bugs under control as trampers make the most of summer'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Department of Conservation says very few refunds have been issued due to bed bugs, as New Zealand trampers follow precautionary advice to make the most of summer.

Dale Chittenden, Acting Operations Manager Rakiura says DOC is constantly monitoring the situation, but very few people are cancelling their trips.

"Trampers staying in DOC huts on Rakiura, Stewart Island and the Kepler in Fiordland, get booking alerts informing them huts have been treated for bed bugs, that we are constantly monitoring them, and that they are welcome to change their plans or get a refund if this deters them," says Dale.

On both tracks, monitoring has continued to detect the occasional bed bug over the last few months, a good reminder for DOC and visitors to remain vigilant, but still come along and enjoy the tracks. It is important to note that bed bugs are a community problem, not specifically a DOC hut problem, and travellers should be wary of accidentally spreading the bugs.

"Very few people are cancelling," says Dale. "Appreciative of the heads-up, those with concerns are opting to communicate with DOC and bring a tent to stay in as an extra precaution, or switch tracks.

"DOC treats affected huts with a chemical that leaves a non-toxic residue that targets bed bugs. A basic "bora bomb" is not enough to counteract them, and we strongly recommend other accommodation providers in affected areas use professional pest control services.

"When people check in at the DOC Visitor Centre on Stewart Island, they are advised of bed bugs on the island and given tips such as shaking out their sleeping bags and checking gear for the tiny hitchhikers, before entering the huts. Bed bugs are visible, they look like small brown beetles, so you can easily see if they’ve come along for the ride. They hate light and sunshine (as well as extreme cold) so airing gear outside is helpful."

Dale says insect repellent containing DEET (diethyltoluamide) is effective to ward off bed bugs for an individual, just like sandflies and mosquitoes.

"People often report a suspected bed bug bite that turns out to be a mosquito or sandfly bite. Applying insect repellent is helpful in all cases.

"Bed bugs are very difficult to eradicate and require constant monitoring. We do know there are still bed bugs being found on the island, and we will continue to do everything we can to eliminate them.

Between DOC, other accommodation providers, and individual travellers all doing their part, we can keep bed bugs under control and hopefully extinguish them for good."

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