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The notorious pests sometimes need no help finding their way into government offices.
It’s no secret that public service is not for the faint of heart. Policy victories are hard won and public frustration routinely boils over in unpredictable ways.
A resident of Augusta, Maine, on Friday afternoon vented frustration at the city’s public assistance office by crashing a cup full of live bedbugs onto the office counter, setting loose the pests and forcing the offices to close for the remainder of the day for inspection and eradication.
“They’re your problem now,” the man reportedly said, as the bugs scurried over the counter.
“Bam, off they flew, maybe 100 of them,” City Manager William Bridgeo told the Kennebec Journal.
Photos from the scene show Augusta Assistant City Manager Ralph St. Pierre mopping up bugs from the counter with Windex and paper towels.
Police on Friday were still weighing what charges to level against the man. The suspect reportedly traveled to the city hall—Augusta City Center, as it’s known—earlier in the day to complain about conditions in an apartment building he had recently vacated. He had reportedly showed his cup of bugs to another local landlord earlier in the day.
The City Center employees had good cause to be alarmed. Augusta, like many U.S. cities, has struggled to combat bedbug building infestations. The bugs, drawn by human blood and carbon dioxide, reportedly carry no disease, but their bites cause itching and they are famously difficult to eradicate.
In recent years, public buildings around the country have suffered infestations, often forcing temporary partial closings. Whole floors have been sealed off; furniture bagged and carted away; employees warned against unwittingly bringing bugs home with them in the folds of their clothes.
In New Jersey last fall, bedbug inspector teams monitored buildings containing offices of the department of health, the department of labor, and the justice complex.
Employees at Philadelphia’s historic city hall were sent home in September 2015 after first-floor sightings led authorities to order the building fumigated.
Over the last year in Lansing, Michigan, rounds of inspections have featured teams of bedbug-sniffing dogs. The dogs trail through buildings looking for bedbugs and bedbug eggs.
Indeed, the Lansing State Journal reported in January that the repeat inspections have made state employees as jumpy as the bugs. An alleged sighting in January brought inspection teams out only to find the alleged bug at the center of the search was just a drop of lifeless dried blood — “a scab,” wrote the Journal reporter.
John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Boulder, Colorado