The Department of Conservation says very few refunds have been issued due to bed bugs this season, despite the pesky bugs being detected at DOC-run hits in Stewart Island and Fiordland.
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 Mr Chittenden.
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, he said.
“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. 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,” he says.
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.”
The Ranger says insect repellent containing DEET (diethyltoluamide) is also 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.”
DOC advice on how to avoid carrying bed bugs
Walkers should clean their gear. In our experience bed bugs do not tolerate extreme cold or hot temperatures well. So for items such as sleeping bags which are not often washable, people could put them in a black rubbish bag and either place in direct sunlight for 24 hrs or in a chest freezer. Followed by air drying on an outside line.
Check their equipment prior to heading into the outdoors. While in the outdoors, and especially before entering huts, take precautions to reduce risk of spread:
- store gear in large plastic bags
- shake out sleeping bag before and after using it
- if possible, leave unused tramping gear outside of the hut
- on returning home check you gear again.