Scratching a bite off a bed bug can lead to infection. [File photo]
After a Wellington man spent a night in a Rakiura Track cabin with the “toughest bed bugs known to man,” he wants the Department of Conservation to notify people of the infestation with bookings.
Dave, who did not want his last name used, arrived at the North Arm Hut on Monday and was woken up by hitchhikers who stamped and crawled to shake the animals off.
The ranger had told everyone that the cabin had been treated for the insects, but some people still chose to sleep in particularly affected bunks, he said.
Later that night, people were shaking their gear in the kitchen in panic, Dave said.
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The people who chose to sleep in the kitchen instead of the bed bug beds slept outside.
Ren Leppens, operations manager at DOC Rakiura, said the problem was first reported in early February.
The hut had been treated four times since then.
Bunks in the North Arm Hut on the Great Walk, Rakiura Track. [DOC]
“Either these are the toughest bed bugs known to man, or they hang on people’s equipment from other locations,” said Leppens.
The bugs were a downside to one of the busiest summers ever, he said.
Experienced fumigation specialists were called in and hikers were given the opportunity to camp on the site.
To make travel easier, Dave didn’t bring a tent to Stewart Island but could have it easy, he said.
He felt that DOC should be upfront and let visitors know ahead of time, rather than when they were fully engaged.
Since DOC provided regular updates and warnings about adverse weather and terrain, he was confused as to why this would not affect the error situation.
There were usually reports of small infestations on the island every four out of five years, Leppens said.
“We heard that other places on the island are also struggling with the problem.”
The beetles were “master hitchhikers,” and given the busy summer on the island, it would be impossible to trace the source, he said.
The North Arm Hut was busy as kiwis explored Stewart Island. [DOC]
Airing out sleeping bags in the bright sun and cleaning them thoroughly are important, but bed bugs don’t reflect the hygiene or cleanliness of the hut, he said.
Neither Dave nor Leppen blamed the mistakes.
The 32-kilometer Rakiura Track is a great walk and usually takes three days to complete.
Dave believed on Monday evening that 23 of the North Arm Hut’s 24 seats were occupied.
The lodge forester had done his best, but the experience definitely “spoiled” Dave’s first trip to the island.
“It’s too late for me, but hopefully others are free to choose.”
His clothes, sleeping bag, and equipment were now contaminated.
Information from the Department of Health says that bed bug bites are usually not a health risk, but scratches can cause infection.
The beetles feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals, hide in dry, dark places during the day and an infestation would have to be treated with pesticides.
Reservations are required to stay at the cabin.
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