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November 2021 Issue
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Extreme measures taken to end bed bug infestation

Fumigation of North Arm Hut failed to control the bed bug infestation

After months of battling, DOC is claiming victory over Rakiura’s bed bugs. 

Bed bugs ravaged trampers on the Rakiura Great Walk last summer after an outbreak in February. 

Rakiura visitor assets manager Dale Chittenden said the huts were at about half capacity due to cancellations after media coverage of the infestation. Multiple attempts to fumigate the huts and eliminate the bugs failed and, initially, it only seemed to aggravate them.

DOC eventually closed North Arm Hut, the worst affected, in late May, early June. The interior of the hut was essentially rebuilt and old materials disposed of.

“We stripped all of the walls of the ply lining and bats and replaced them and built new bunks to seal all of the gaps,” Chittenden said. He estimated the work cost $30,000. 

All huts on Stewart Island have now been treated and Chittenden is hopeful the island’s huts are now bug-free. 

The huts on the Whanganui River Journey closed for fumigation in April after an infestation and the bugs had also been discovered in huts on the Old Ghost Road.

Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust chair Phil Rossiter said they had been battling the bugs in huts on the Old Ghost Road for three months, but he has declared a tentative victory.

“They put up a good fight,” Rossiter said. “It’s been like dealing with Delta. They are noble beasts and have won our respect and we will be on our guard.”

Ghost Lake Hut was particularly affected, but all huts on the trail have been treated repeatedly. Signs are now installed asking people to stay vigilant. 

Rossiter said trampers should check their gear following a tramp; if there are bugs, either treat it with heat or put it in the freezer.