A Growing Problem
“Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite,” used to be said to little children at night to lull them to sleep. Today it's more likely to make their skin crawl.
The creeping tiny reddish-brown insects that invade your bed and feed on human blood before dawn are making a bold comeback, so much so they are the focus of an Environmental Protection Agency summit being held in Washington D.C. today.
Bed bugs are now found in fine hotels, homeless shelters, mental health hospitals, hospital wings and college dorms. They live in the folds of mattresses, and in sheets, and sofas. Deemed a pest of significant public health importance, the EPA’s Lois Rossi says “The problem seems to be increasing and it could definitely be worse in densely populated areas like cities, although it can be a problem for anyone.”
Information to be exchanged is the impact bed bugs are having on housing and hospitality. There are few chemicals that take care of them and the critters develop resistance to those that do. DDT was effective but it is off store shelves.
The problem isn’t just in the U.S.
This is a worldwide resurgence," said Dini Miller to Associated Press. She is an entomologist and bedbug expert at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, who until 2001 only saw bedbugs on microscope slides dating from the 1950s.
Many who call her out of total frustration have spent the night in their bathtub, she says.
While bed bugs are not known to transmit disease, they can cause a rashy allergic reaction and infections in some people. People being bitten at night often don’t know it because bed bugs excrete a numbing agent. Additional bites can result in an intense allergic reaction.
What are bed bugs?
Though more scarce during the 1990s, their numbers are resurging in North America, Europe and Australia. They can live for months without feeding, even up to a year. Waiting a period of time before you treat rarely works.
Hatchling bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed, reports Harvard.
They range in color from nearly white to tan to burnt orange. They do not have wings. Bed bugs seek out dark cracks and crevices. One can observe cast off skin of bed bugs, though that does not confirm they are still there.
Bed bugs are about ¼ of an inch and are oval but flattened. Only finding crawling bed bugs in beds, sheets, curtains, even luggage, furniture, and among items on the floor will confirm their existence.
How do you deal with the problem?
Bed bugs infest a small proportion of residences. Either compare what you find to reference images, or capture them in a small container or zip-lock plastic bag and have a positive identification made from a knowledgeable expert.
Cleaning them up will involve a multi-faceted approach and includes cleaning, room modification and insecticides. Harvard has an online form you can fill out so they can identify the bug and make a treatment plan.
Basically you will need to thoroughly clean the infested room, scrubbing surfaces to dislodge the eggs and use a powerful vacuum to remove the bugs from crevices. Usually the bed frame needs to be dismantled and drawers removed, inspected and cleaned in all hiding spots.
Mattresses can be wrapped and sealed, eventually killing any bugs trapped inside.
A professional pest manager with specific experience in eliminating bed bugs may need to be called. Be sure to check their references and call the former customers. A written pest management plan can be obtained from the pest control operator and if an apartment in a building is infested, it likely that the bugs may travel through walls, floors and ceilings to the next apartment, so they should all be included in a cleanup plan.
As a tenant, you have a right to a safe and habitable home. Carefully read the label on any pesticide. Misapplying a pesticide could make you legally liable if it is misapplied or hurts other living creatures. You never want to apply pesticide or insecticide directly on a mattress that will be in direct contact with a person.
Methods of treatment may include an insecticidal dust – that erodes the insect’s outer coating with a fine ground glass or silica powder; contact insecticide – which may contain pyrethroids or chlorfenapyr; or insect growth regulators – that impact the reproduction cycle of the bug.
Disposing of an infested mattress on the street increases the chance that someone else will pick it up, so it’s always advised to deface the mattress or furniture.
Pest managers want federal funding to find ways to heat, freeze or steam bugs out of bedrooms. Putting bedding in the freezer might be a temporary solution to killing them. #