Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Trained dogs sniff out pests in homes

Trained dogs sniff out pests in homes.

Canines are able to hunt down bed bugs, termites and other infestations.

When the termite inspector arrived at the Orange County, N.C. home, he didn't immediately strap on a backpack filled with chemicals or crawl on his hands and knees into the depths of the garage, shining a flashlight into the corners.

Instead, he opened the door of his car so Silas, an energetic black dog of Labrador and terrier ancestry, could hop out and get to work.

Rick Wade, a professional dog trainer and pest-control agent, walked Silas around the outside of the house, commanding him to sniff for termites. About six weeks earlier, while homeowner Ed Jenkins was in the midst of remodeling an upstairs bathroom, termites were discovered beneath the shower. Terminix workers treated the areas where they could find termites but had trouble discovering the infestation's entry point into the house.

So Silas was called in to help. Specially trained to sniff for termites and bed bugs, Silas represents a small but growing trend in the pest-control world: employees that work for food, or even a few minutes chewing on a rolled up towel.

"They can find them where we can't," Wade said of the bug-sniffing canines that search for microscopic pests and their even tinier eggs.

"We're looking for them, and the dogs are smelling them."

The emergence of pest-sniffing dogs mirrors the national resurgence of bed bugs, said Greg Baumann, who is based in Raleigh, N.C. and is the senior scientist for the National Pest Management Association.

Recent years have seen the number of bed bug infestations rise, with apartment buildings, dormitories and hotels falling victim to insects that are less than one-quarter inch long and extremely difficult to find.

That's where the wet noses come in.

"It's an ideal situation for a scent-detecting canine," said Baumann, who added that studies have shown the dogs to be more than 95 percent accurate.

Ned Dillon, deputy director of structural pest control programs for the state of North Carolina, figures there are fewer than one dozen pest-sniffing dogs in the state.

Source: Matt Ehlers / Raleigh News and Observer