Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bed Bug Question

Posted on Sun, Sep. 10, 2006email thisprint this
Travelers can bring bed bugs to cleanest homes and hotels• Q: A man who works for me has red marks all over his body. His wife is covered in them, too. They recently moved into an efficiency on South Beach.

Action Line: Tell us what's causing this.


via phone

• A: It sounds as if they're suffering from bed bug bites. The good news is that they don't transmit diseases, but they may cause an allergic reaction and be intensely itchy.

The increased incidence in developed nations has made the news recently; bed bugs are being reported everywhere from filthy flophouses to the cleanest of high-end hotels.

Try to find an experienced local exterminator through the National Pest Management Association's website, It may take three visits over a period of months.

Bed bugs are tiny (less than ¼-inch), rusty-red and flat until they're engorged with blood. They only emerge at night, hiding during the day. They can live for a year without food. Pretreatment preparation is vital for success. Start by checking the mattress seams for spots or streaks of brown or black staining, eggs, and maybe adult bugs. The bugs stay close to their human hosts, so they'll be concentrated near the bed, but as the infestation grows, they'll find places further away to hide.

High heat effectively kills them; bed linens, clothes, stuffed toys and the like must be laundered in the hottest water possible and dried at the highest heat. If they can't be laundered, disposal is the best option. Carpets and rugs need frequent steam cleaning.

Consider discarding the mattress and box spring if there's a heavy infestation; treating the interior effectively is difficult. The bed frame and all furniture should be thoroughly examined. Use a vacuum cleaner on everything, particularly cracks and crevices along floors, walls, door frames and the like. All furniture needs to be carefully scrutinized, which means turning it upside down and may mean taking it apart. Cut down on clutter to reduce the number of hiding places.

(If you replace the bed, and until you're sure you've beaten the infestation, tape two-sided sticky tape on the legs -- the bugs can't fly or jump -- or place them on plastic furniture rests inside shallow containers of water. Make sure the bed isn't in contact with the wall or other furniture.)

Once this has been done, an exterminator can treat the home. If you do it yourself, be very careful of the pesticides involved; many must not be used inside or around children and pets. Pesticides based on pyrethrins are the safest bet.

Check further at so you'll know how your enemy operates. You'll find links to other helpful websites at the end of the article.

Why are we seeing a resurgence of bed bugs, and how do they get inside our homes?

Their presence was an accepted part of life until the advent of DDT, which was very effective in killing them. After it was banned, they slowly made a comeback, probably by accompanying travelers from developing nations. Some parts of the country -- New York City, for instance -- have experienced a significant increase in just a few years.

The bugs simply hitch a ride in clothes or suitcases. One tip is to keep clothes in travel bags away from beds. In the days before DDT, it was common for people to check their hotel bed for bed bugs.

Buying used furniture and/or bedding at garage sales or flea markets is another way to bring them home. They can also arrive in a brand new mattress that's delivered alongside an old mattress collected from another home. If you're buying new, ensure that the mattress will be encased in plastic before delivery.

Residents of apartment buildings may be particularly vulnerable because bed bugs in one unit will eventually crawl to others.

In many ways, it's the psychological aspect of an infestation that's the hardest thing to handle. Bed bugs induce strong feelings of embarrassment. People feel desperately unclean, afraid to sleep in their own homes and are too embarrassed to tell anyone, let alone invite friends over. Learn fact from fiction, and consider counseling if they're making your life miserable.

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