Mattress bugs have infested a submarine. Here is what the Navy is doing

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Sailors aboard the rapid attack submarine USS Connecticut find themselves in a fierce battle against an army of blood-sucking bastards known as bed bugs.

Navy Times’ Geoff Ziezulewicz first revealed that the boat’s crew had been plagued by the insatiable bugs for a year. The six-legged terrorists have reportedly run amok since Connecticut participated in an Arctic naval exercise in March 2020. The crew members had to avoid their racks to avoid being bitten.

The Seawolf-class submarine has reportedly been anchored at Kitsap-Bremerton Naval Base in Washington since December. So far the efforts of the Navy to eradicate the incisive insects with extreme prejudice have failed. The crew members have told the Navy Times that they believe their command has not responded quickly enough to the boat’s new insect overlords.

Seafarers reportedly tried to sleep in chairs and on the crew floor because they were eaten alive on their shelves, a minor officer told the Navy Times. Another crew member said that sleep deprived seafarers were on board the submarine when it was deployed, creating dangerous working conditions.

While the Navy received its first reports of the bed bug infestation back in December, it wasn’t until February 19 that inspectors found actual hard evidence that the animals had entered the USS Connecticut, Cmdr said. Cindy Fields, a spokeswoman for the US Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Force.

The Navy then inspected the sleeping areas, removed mattresses, washed all linens and clothing, and cleaned all floors and surfaces on board the boat, she said.

“Two marine entomologists arrived on March 4 to direct the practical effort,” Fields said. “After two pesticide applications and an initial application of diatomaceous earth, entomologists set up sealing efforts to prevent the likely transport of insects invulnerable to pesticide application, and monitored the additional use of diatomite dust and efforts to get insects out of hiding and in Contact with deadly animals draw countermeasures. ”

Entomologists have recommended allowing Connecticut crew members to return to their sleeping areas, but a seaman told the Navy Times that the crew is being used as live bait to determine if bed bugs survived cleaning.

Fields said the entomologists have confirmed the Navy did everything possible to eradicate the insect threat, including two uses of Navy-approved pesticides.

“All appropriate countermeasures have been put in place with firm plans to address further outbreaks if they occur,” Fields said.

Ordinarily, Task & Purpose would recommend the use of nuclear weapons against bed bugs, but since the Navy only has three Seawolf-class submarines because they are so expensive – the USS Connecticut alone costs $ 6 billion – other methods must be sought become.

Since some scientists don’t always have the “bottom-line” perspective of professional bug slayers, Task & Purpose sparked a grunt in the Bug Wars.

“Typically, heat is the preferred way to get rid of bed bugs,” said Jesse Jardim, owner of Superior Bed Bug Solutions in Alexandria, Virginia.

“So, you raise the temperature to about 135 degrees and hold it for about three hours – 125 and above will kill it in seconds, but you have to make sure it penetrates everywhere.”

However, Jardim added that he did not know how sensitive submarine instruments were to heat.

Bed bugs are hard to kill, said Jardim, who has a customer in Baltimore who found the bugs in an office building that stood empty last year.

“So the bed bugs survived there for a year without anyone being there,” said Jardim. “That just shows how tough they are.”

Bed bugs, officially known as Cimex lectularius, Cimex hemipterus, and Leptocimex boueti, may not look like much, but they are constantly evolving.

A scientific study of bed bugs found that their “genome sequence reveals genes that encode enzymes and other proteins that the bed bug can use to fight insecticides, whether by breaking them down or preventing them from entering its body.”

In other words, their survival is genetically encoded within them, and they appear to be able to adapt to pesticides as humans adapt to the weather by shaking it off and moving on to their daily routine. It also aids species survival in that they reproduce at a rate that causes most rabbits to blush.

Bed bugs can be found anywhere people sleep or spend time, including at home, in movie theaters, and even in submarines, said Brittany Campbell, an entomologist with the National Pest Management Association.

Some infections can be difficult to check for because bites alone are not considered evidence of the presence of bed bugs, Campbell said.

“Bed bugs are known to be difficult to control and get rid of, and usually require multiple treatments and a variety of tactics,” Campbell said. “They are cryptic creatures that are usually well hidden behind walls or in bed frames and can be found in almost any object that offers dark protection.

“Aside from being small and well hidden, they have also developed resistance to many of the products used for control, so it’s important to use a variety of control tactics for elimination,” she said.

Submarines also offer near-limitless spaces in which bed bugs cannot be detected, said Phillipe Maxwell, a former submariner who used to work as a bed bug inspector for Jardim.

“There are probably billions of tiny nooks and crannies a pest could get into – like billions,” said Maxwell, who left the Navy as a second class sergeant.

The submarines include pipelines and rooms that humans cannot reach. All of these are ideal hiding spots for insect invaders, said Maxwell, who luckily didn’t have to deal with bed bugs while serving aboard a submarine.

“I think if it’s not caught early it will likely be years before this submarine is cleared just because all the places that bugs could be in the sub are there,” Maxwell said.

Maybe getting Connecticut out of orbit is not a bad idea after all. This is the only way to be sure.

Feature image: Task & Purpose photo composite with bed bugs on the left and the submarine USS Connecticut on the right. (Photos via Michael Potter / US Navy)