- One of the Navy’s most powerful submarines fought a bed bug infestation.
- USS Connecticut sailors have been doing this for at least December, possibly longer.
- The Navy says it responded quickly and effectively, but some sailors said help came too late.
- You can find more articles on Insider’s business page.
Sailors aboard the Seawolf-class submarine USS Connecticut, one of the most capable submarines in the U.S. Navy, have battled a bed bug infestation.
The Naval Submarine Force Pacific told Insiders that the Navy was making efforts to find and eliminate the hard-to-kill bed bugs after the problem was first reported last December, stating that February saw the “physical presence of.” Bed bugs “was found.
Seafarers told the Navy Times, which first reported the infestation, that the problem actually emerged in March last year when the submarine was attending a training session in the Arctic. Family members of Connecticut sailors told the Kitsap Sun that the infestation had been a problem for about a year.
“People were being eaten alive on their shelves,” a sub-officer assigned to the submarine told the Navy Times. The seaman added that the situation became so bad that the seamen slept in chairs or on the floor in the mess.
One seaman told the Navy Times the outbreak had adversely affected people’s sleep, a problem for seafarers with stressful jobs. “If someone is deprived of sleep because they’re in bed and being eaten alive by bed bugs, they could fall asleep at (the controls) and let us run into an underwater mountain,” said the seaman.
When the submarine returned to port, some sailors slept in cars to avoid their porters, the Kitsap Sun reported.
Bed bug that feeds on human skin
Edwin Remsburg / VW Images via Getty Images
Bed bugs are small, russet, blood-sucking insects that burrow into beds and other furniture, and they are exceptionally resilient. The beetles feed at night and often bite exposed skin while humans are sleeping. They don’t fly, but crawl quickly over floors, ceilings and walls.
The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center says that “immediate action should be taken if an infestation is discovered”.
Seafarers told the Navy Times that the first time they raised concerns about bed bugs aboard Connecticut, the command fired them because they “had no evidence”.
“Navy criteria for handling submarines or ships requires bed bugs to be present in order to determine existence,” said Navy Submarine Force Pacific spokeswoman Cmdr. Cynthia Fields told Insider.
She said several inspections of the submarine after reports of possible bed bugs last December revealed “no evidence of bed bugs”. Even then, “Command continued to pursue the resolution,” said Fields, adding, “The Navy takes the safety and health of seafarers very seriously.”
The spokeswoman told Insider that “daily inspections have taken place since the insects were first discovered” last month. “All berths on board have been searched, including removing all beds and thoroughly inspecting all mattress seams and folds.”
“All bedclothes and privacy curtains have been washed or replaced to destroy the insects,” Fields said, explaining that bed bugs cannot survive the high temperatures of normal tumble dryers.
The mattresses in the affected areas were replaced, all clothing was washed, and the affected areas were thoroughly cleaned.
She said the response to the infestation was monitored by Navy Preventative Medicine technicians and Navy entomologists who directed the application of “lethal countermeasures.”
Felder said pesticide was applied twice after an initial application of diatomaceous earth. Entomologists then took steps to seal off areas where the insects could escape from the pesticide before dropping more diatomaceous earth to remove any remaining bed bugs.
The Seawolf-class rapid attack submarine USS Connecticut leaves port
During the extensive treatment process, living areas were set up on the pier at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton for Connecticut sailors. Navy entomologists have since recommended that seafarers return to their racks.
“All appropriate countermeasures have been put in place with firm plans to address further outbreaks if they occur,” Fields said.
However, the Kitsap Sun reported that the bed bugs have not yet been fully eradicated. The Connecticut sailors told the Navy Times that they would be pushed back into their racks, claiming the order “uses us as live bait … to see if (the bed bugs) are still there”.
At least one seaman characterized the command response to the infestation as “employee abuse”.
The Navy did not respond to Insider’s question whether it would investigate allegations that the Command was improperly responding to seafarers’ concerns about infestation aboard Connecticut.
However, the service said that staff from the Navy’s Environmental and Preventive Medicine Department, preventive medicine technicians, and the ship’s corpsman had “raised the concerns of the crew” and reiterated that “the Navy takes the safety and health of seafarers very seriously” .