The Bedbugs Are Back

“Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.” My mother used to say this as she tucked me into bed. I thought that bedbugs were a pretend bug just as Mickey Mouse was a pretend mouse. But bedbugs are real and, after being almost totally eliminated in the fifties, they are back. They never left the developing world but now they’re back in the developed world from New York to London to Sydney.

New York City had two bedbug violations in the year 2002 but since in 2004 there were 377 and since July of 2005 there have been 449 violations. Experts aren’t sure what has caused this explosion but speculate a number of different causes. One cause may be increased immigration from the developing world where bed bugs are still plentiful. Another cause may be cheap international travel. Another may be the recent banning of certain pesticides. People leave their old couches and chairs on the sidewalk and they are snapped up before the trash collectors can get to them and this may spread bedbugs. Bedbugs may have developed a resistance to common pesticides. But it’s hard to see that any or all of these could cause the very sudden and dramatic increase in bedbugs so experts are quite puzzled.

Bedbugs are blood sucking arachnids about the size of an apple seed. They find humans to be especially yummy but will snack on dogs, cats or other mammals if they have to. They eat during the night and then hide and digest their meal during the day. They can live more than a year and the female lays about 500 eggs in her lifetime. An adult can go for a year without eating. There are five juvenile stages and the nymph must feed at least once to advance to the next stage.

Fortunately, bedbugs are not vectors so the spread of diseases is not a problem. But they cause very itchy wheals. Some people have no reaction while others develop serious rashes. It is suspected that they can trigger asthma. In India iron deficiency in babies has been caused by severe infestations. Most people are repelled by the very idea of blood sucking bugs attacking them at night.

If you want to try to get rid of them yourself, you must take your mattress off the bedsprings and spray or dust in all the tufts, button dents, and along seams, in addition to a general spray of the mattress. Spray all the box springs and the joints and corners of any wood. Treat the molding along floors and walls. Empty and remove drawers from bed tables and chests and then spray these. Wash all bed linens and dry hot. If you don’t want pesticides in your mattress, you can wrap it in black plastic and put it out in the sun for several hours.

You may just want to go ahead and have a professional get rid of the bed bugs. If you do, make sure that they know how to get rid of bedbugs.

Good luck. It would be nice to get those bedbugs back into pretend land.

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