They’re near invisible to the untrained eye. Ninety per cent of the time they lay in rest, hiding in baseboards, cracks and box springs waiting to bite.
Worst yet, warmer winters mean populations of the blood-sucking little critters are on the rise.
But not if Calvin Gillings’ Klondike Pest Control has anything to do with it.
The 27-year-old’s family pest control business is just a year old, shaking up – err, shaking down – homes and businesses for bedbugs and other creepy crawlies.
But rather than arming himself with the usual ghost-buster sprayer of toxic chemicals, Gillings has a different approach. He’s equipped with the tried and trusted classics: a vacuum, heat and education.
“The best way to fight them is to provide the proper information,” Gillings says. “You always gotta look out for them. You can’t just go months on end and not expect to see anything.”
Gillings is worried about chemical resistance among insects and increased risks to human exposure.
“Physically removing them is the best way to treat bedbugs,” he said. “You need to catch them. They multiply very, very quickly.”
The friendly, freckle-faced young professional says people are shocked to hear that bed bugs are up here.
“I’ve been to many communities: Watson Lake, Old Crow and around Carmacks,” Gillings says. “They’re all over the territory.”
“We’ve averaged between 5-10 cases a month for the last year,” Gillings says.
“Globally it’s a pandemic and the Yukon isn’t excluded in that.”
In reality, infestations aren’t new, says Gillings. “In the 1900s you couldn’t sit in a chair without them crawling on you.”
With the post-war wave of DDT and organophosphates, the pests were successfully stifled.
But these compounds are toxic to humans, especially fetuses and children, readily absorbed through lungs, skin and food.
They also create chemical resistance. Add to the mix today’s more tightly packed cities and a warming climate, and a long list of pesky critters – from larder beetles to carpenter ants – are back.
That list includes mosquitoes, to which Gillings also has a new approach: bats.
Gillings hopes to encourage residential and large-scale bat houses to grow endangered bat populations, which act as natural predators for smaller insects like mosquitoes. “They use the houses to roost instead of your attic,” Gillings explains.
White-nose syndrome is a fungus that has plagued North American bat populations. The outbreak is migrating west and potentially north, contributing to an upswing of the camper’s worst enemy.
For Gillings, considering bats themselves as pests and driving them away from municipalities and communities is increasing dependence on more aggressive methods of insect control.
This includes spraying bacteria that act as toxins to mosquito larvae. Use of these products, known as larvicide, have become common practice. But Gillings said the long-term effects of their use remain unknown.
“Any time you introduce new products to an environment on a wide scale there are impacts,” says Gillings.
Gillings learned his unconventional approaches to pest control from his father, who has owned his independent business in southern Ontario for nearly 30 years.
“I used to burn ants with a magnifying glass, eat spiders,” he laughs. “I’ve done it all.”
Gillings migrated north eight years ago to pursue a career in commercial aviation. But a diagnosis with the degenerative disease multiple sclerosis, or MS, held him back.
So he turned to the business that put bread and butter on his family’s table.
Refusing to let the illness hold him back from a meaningful career, Gillings says his MS factors into his desire to find alternative ways to manage pests.
“I am exposing my family to pesticides when I come home,” he says.
“My dad taught me to think outside the box. Poisons are easy, but telling people about gaps on the sides of doors helps them find lasting solutions.”
“For sure there are situations when you have to use them, but only as a last resort.”
Now Gillings and his wife, Francine Johnny, have their own eight-month-old son with hopes of passing the family pest-control operation to a third generation.
“People are always gonna want to get rid of bugs.”
“I am just trying to give Yukoners a greener and more humane choice.”
Contact Lauren Kaljur at