US Navy Submarine Treated for Bedbug Infestation 

bedbugs aboard US Navy submarine
USS Connecticut returning to base in 2018 after five weeks in he Arctic - Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Gray (US Navy)

Published Mar 15, 2021 6:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

A U.S. Navy submarine is battling an enemy the size of a seed. Sailors assigned to the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut have reportedly been complaining about rashes, skin irritations, and bite marks for nearly a year, but it took until just recently for the U.S. Navy to confirm that the ship was suffering from an infestation of bedbugs.

The Navy said that it received reports that there were possibly bedbugs aboard the elite submarine in December 2020 while it was at its Bremerton base in Washington state. Navy entomologists sent to the vessel did an inspection but could not at the time confirm the presence of the insidious inspect that likely first came aboard the vessel in the clothing or other fabric carried aboard by one of the sailors. The size of a seed, the insects infest in bedding and other fabrics hiding by day and coming out at night biting humans mostly while they are asleep.

A spokesperson for the Pacific Fleet told CNN, "They have to find a bedbug for them to actually do something to treat it because you know, there are all kinds of things that can cause itching your skin. They have to confirm that that's really the issue before they start tackling it."

The formal reports to the Navy in December launched a nearly two-month search of the vessel to identify the specific cause. It took till mid-February for the Navy to finally locate the insects on board the submarine. A remediation program began that involves dusting the areas with chemicals that the bugs track into their nests. 

The Navy Times, however, which first reported the infestation, said the complaints dated back to March 2020 while the submarine was deployed. They reported that sailors in several berthing spaces aboard the submarine reported the bite marks and itching. The bug may have later spread to at least one officer’s cabin as well. They also reported that the complaints had grown so severe that recently some sailors had taken to sleeping in their cars on base.

The Navy confirmed that some sailors had been temporarily relocated to onshore barracks while the remediation was ongoing. The Navy reports that mattresses in the infected areas of the ship were replaced and that linens, curtains on the berths, uniforms, and other fabrics were replaced or chemically treated.

Daily inspections are continuing aboard the submarine but the Navy believes that the infestation has been successfully treated. Sailors were moved back aboard the vessel to continue their training exercises.