Pest control companies in Ottawa are reporting a 600 per cent increase in the number of bed bug calls over the last year, saying the volume of calls has reached an "epidemic level."

The blood sucking bugs aren't isolated to dirty areas. They can be found in fancy homes, libraries, movie theatres, OC Transpo buses and even doctor's offices.

"My daughter had bites in her room," said one Ottawa mother, who has no idea how the small bugs got into her home.

"And whether I like it or not, people will still stigmatize us – that maybe we're dirty, that is the issue."

Cleanliness myth

However, bed bugs don't necessarily have anything to do with cleanliness.

New York's high-end Hollister store was recently forced to close its doors to treat bed bugs. In Manhattan, the Victoria Secret store also admitted the insects were found in isolated areas.

Patrick O'Hara, who owns Pest Guard in Ottawa, says the bugs have no preference.

"Five-star or no star, they're blood feeders," O'Hara told CTV Ottawa.

He says there's been a huge jump in the number of bed bug cases in Ottawa, especially this summer. He adds people often return from vacation, unknowingly bringing the tiny insects with them.

"Our call volume is getting to the point where it's hard to keep up and we don't see it getting any better, unfortunately," O'Hara said.

Treating the problem

But treating the bugs isn't easy. It's expensive and intensive. Every corner and every piece of furniture needs to be sprayed.

Pest control companies say it only takes one bug for a new infestation to take place.

"That's why it's so hard to eradicate because that one insect (if she's been inseminated) can cause this whole problem over again in six to eight weeks," said Jayson Anderson of Pest Guard.

Female bed bugs can lay 300 eggs in their lifetime. If a bug has been inseminated once, it can lay eggs for the rest of its life.

Bed bugs that feed regularly have a lifespan of 10 months. Those who don't have access to a good food supply can live longer -- a little more than one year.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Joanne Schnurr