With crammed spaces on the TTC and a horde of people coming and going daily it’s hardly a surprise bed bugs are crawling on streetcars, buses and subway trains.
There have been 12 cases of bed bug infestations on TTC vehicles over the past two years, CTV News reports, based on documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
However, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross told CityNews there hasn’t been any “infestations,” but rather the “sightings of [bed] bugs from time to time.”
According to the CTV report, there have been at least 70 complaints of bed bugs on TTC vehicles in the past two years. However, Ross said he is “not aware of the number of complaints.”
Last month, a TTC rider posted a photo on Reddit claiming to show a bed bug crawling up his glove while he was on the 501 Queen streetcar.
Ross said TTC riders shouldn’t be concerned about bed bugs, brought on board by people, because they cannot thrive on transit vehicles.
“If bed bugs are brought aboard, they won’t survive for long,” he explained.
When the streetcar incident made the online stratosphere last month, Ross told the Toronto Sun that TTC vehicles are an “inhospitable environment” for bed bugs.
However, pest control professionals say that is not true.
“Bed bugs can nest and survive on a street, bus or other vehicle,” Advantage Pest Control said in a tweet. “Bring a bed bug onto a streetcar and it may very well survive on the vehicle long-term, not only hitchhike home with a passenger.”
— AdvantagePestControl (@pestservices) February 27, 2016
And Avery Addison of Addison Pest Control told CTVNews “bedbugs can thrive in any environment.”
If a passenger spots a bed bug crawling on themselves or on another passenger, Ross said they should inform the TTC of the date, time and vehicle number. That particular vehicle will then be taken in for a thorough cleaning.
“If someone sees a bed bug that is because it has recently come aboard. When we’re made aware by complaint, we take the vehicle out of service and do a deep clean,” Ross said.
The TTC uses steam cleaners and other fumigation tools to kill bugs that have made TTC vehicles their home.
Bed bugs are not just found on TTC vehicles, but in hotels, apartments, homes, and offices. According to the City of Toronto, bed bugs are not a health hazard, but secondary skin infections and allergic reactions are a cause for concern.
In terms of how often the TTC gets complaints about bed bugs, Ross said “less than 100 times in two years.”
“Very rarely and even then it’s difficult to confirm that what the person saw was, in fact, a bed bug,” he said.
Given that the TTC carries 500 million people a year on more than 2,000 buses and streetcars, it is hard to keep track of every bed bug that comes on board.
To protect yourself from bed bugs when travelling on the ground or even in the air, consult this handy guide.