Don't let the bed bugs bite
Issue date: 9/6/06 Section: Features
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It appears to be no myth. The old saying parents used after tucking in their children has come to shed new light. Tiny organisms are raiding beds across the country and at the current rate, may soon come to a room near students.
Over the past several years, bedbug infestations have increased in numbers.
According to Chris Haggerty, a supervisor at American Pest Control, Inc. in Bloomington, his company has dealt with more cases with each passing year.
"There is no question it's growing," Haggerty said. "We saw our first case about four years ago. The next year we had two or three cases and the following year we had several cases. This year we've seen even more than that."
Haggerty explained that these types of insects used to be prevalent in the United States before World War II but were virtually eliminated with the use of DDT, a pesticide that prevented insects from destroying crops.
"Once Eastern Europe reopened and people started traveling to places like China more freely, these bugs were able to spread their territory," Haggerty said.
These organisms can be seen with the naked eye along the outer parts of bedding material. They resemble a brownish and flat insect that seeks to feed on the blood of humans.
"The best way to tell is to strip your bedding down and look for either feces, which looks like dried up blood spots along the seams of the mattress, or look for the insect," Dan Norman, owner of Pride Pest Control in Bloomington, said.
Despite what one may think, sanitation is only part of the equation.
"Bedbugs are not necessarily from filth. They are not feeding on dirty things the way that roaches do," Haggerty explained. "But the more stuff you have and the more clutter, the more places there are for them to hide."
Haggerty said common places bedbugs burrow in are mattress edges where the seams are located, in tiny cracks in the headboard and also in the box spring.
"Inside of a box spring is the wood frame where there are lots of places for them to hide," Haggerty said.
"When we do a job, one of the things we insist upon is throwing the box spring out. You cannot treat that well enough," he added.
With the discontinued use of DDT, the tiny insects were given another chance to breed.
"Bedbugs are extremely difficult to find and kill. The materials we have nowadays are good but are not designed for bedbugs," Haggerty said.
"They can go for a year without a blood meal when they are in a hibernation mode. You think you've gotten rid of them and 10 months later they are in the same room." Norman said his company sprayed in four various places in town in the last six months.
He said bedbugs are known to cause itchy sores at times but most likely are not harmful. He added that in a lot of ways, these types of bites are similar to the bite of a mosquito. Haggerty said there is lack of evidence when it comes to bedbugs and a correlation with disease transmission.
At the current time of year, both Norman and Haggerty have not treated any bedbug complaints in the dorms but said it may be a possible threat in the future.
Both said that motels commonly have been known to carry these types of infestations.
"The best thing to do when you're staying over night somewhere is to inspect the mattress and look for the red blood spots," Haggerty said.
"If you find that, refuse to stay in that room and get your luggage out of there as quickly as possible. Try not to stay in a place that has those bugs because there is a very good chance you will bring them home."
"I haven't heard any reports from our clinics on bedbugs currently," Jim Almeda, health educator with the Health Promotion Office, said.
Almeda added that if students find themselves with a bedbug problem to try and minimize it by washing their sheets in hot water and calling in a specialist if the problem worsens.
Students around campus may not be as educated as they could be. Doug Brennan, sophomore psychology major, said he wasn't even sure if they were real.
"I once knew someone who washed their sheets everyday because they thought they would get them," Brennan said.
"All I know is that they're nasty little suckers, " Matthew McHugh, sophomore business major, said. "They bite you when you sleep."
For Brian Bak, freshman construction management, the only thing he knew was a basic fact.
"Bedbugs can climb into places that you don't want them to," Bak said.
Mark Miskell, sophomore history education major said he's not a big fan of bedbugs.
"I heard they can multiply like rabbits and can be very hard to get rid of," he said. "I've always wondered if they could eat people alive," he added.
Aside from inspecting bed furniture, just being aware of these nighttime critters may be the only way of stopping them.
Myth or not, one thing is for sure. When the light goes out, try not to let the bedbugs bite.