Augustus “Gus” Carey, managing director and founder of Allergy Technologies in Ambler, holds up one of his company’s ActiveGuard Mattress Liners, bed bug killers which Gus hopes will eventually be in thousands of hotels rooms.

by Suzanne Cloud

My intimate relationship with bed bugs began a few years ago when I was on a camping trip with my boyfriend. Tired of the tent, we decided to stop for one night at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort in North Utica, Illinois. After warm showers and a few drinks, we settled down for a restful night. But oh, it was not to be.

By 3 a.m., not knowing we had inadvertently rung the bed bug dinner bell, we were awakened by a stampede of “Cimex lectularias” making a feast of our blood. We screamed, shuddered, grabbed our clothes and drove like maniacs to a 24/7 laundromat to wash EVERYTHING in the hottest water. Appropriately, one of the 305 negative reviews for Grizzly Jack on was mine.

Therefore, I’m happy to have just celebrated National Bed Bug Awareness Week (June 7-13) with an uplifting story about how some people are fighting the good fight against these nightmarish creatures. Turns out that the Philadelphia area is one of the top bed bug-infested cities in the country, so I decided to interview long-time Ambler entrepreneur Augustus “Gus” Carey, managing director and founder of Allergy Technologies, to get an update on what to do.

An extremely jovial bug man, Carey told me about his ActiveGuard Mattress Liners and how they are being used in a 500-unit low-income housing complex in Philadelphia to see if the mattress liners really do prevent bed bug reinfestation. He claims that the mattress liners kill bed bugs in or near mattresses and box springs with no airborne sprays or powders and that they afford continuous protection for up to two years.

“Councilman Mark Squilla has been a great help with getting the ATAHC [Allergy Technologies Affordable Housing Control and Prevention] program started. Right now, we have our liners in 488 units of affordable housing. It’s the first program designed to prevent bedbugs in affordable housing, and we’re hoping to take it nationwide soon.”

The acronym for the program is pronounced “attack,” and its cognomen is fitting since the main ingredient, Permethrin, not only attacks the enemy within 10 minutes, killing and repelling bed bugs, but also dust mites, a leading cause of childhood asthma, and even ticks. Carey told me, “Permethrin is non-toxic, and it’s been around for 40 years. It was first used in mosquito nets for malaria.”

These flexible and durable mattress liners are treated with a unique formulation of this repellent, a synthetic version of pyrethrum, a natural insecticide derived from the chrysanthemum flower, and it not only kills the infestation, but it also “brings the allergen levels to zero for two years,” according to Carey.

Carey’s product sounds like it would be the perfect magnet for the TV show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs from around the country seek large sums of money from billionaire investors in return for a certain percentage of their company. Carey has spent millions of dollars on university research and marketing, but his product has not yet hit the big time. He currently has four employees, a plant in the United Kingdom and about $1 million in sales per year.

But considering the cost to a hotel if it has a bedbug problem that winds up on social media, the potential for a product like ActiveGuard Mattress Liners is huge.

Gus Carey and Joseph Latino, president of technology, are hoping to resume the Philly program, which was stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, later this month when Governor Wolf lifts the restriction levels to yellow and green in our area.

After Grizzly Jack’s, my boyfriend and I were so paranoid, we spent the next two years inspecting every mattress for bed bugs in every place we stayed on vacation. What a buzzkill. Luckily, these inexpensive mattress liners are available to hotels (you’ll never get them to admit to having bed bugs!), college dorms, apartments and private homes, and I hope every establishment invests in this product, especially Grizzly Jack; it just might save his business.

When I was a girl and DDT had pretty much eliminated bed bugs from the scene (and many other living things), my parents would say to me every night, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” I’d ask them, “What’s a bed bug?” Well, now we know. They’re back, and they are biting. Happy Bed Bug Awareness Week that just ended!

For more information, visit Suzanne Cloud is a local author, freelance writer and jazz singer with a doctorate degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

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