Bed bugs draw nervous laughter — and solid prevention tips
January 14, 2017 by Sarah Jenkins
Talk about nervous laughter…
“The nursery rhyme ‘Nighty, night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite’ — it’s real,” said Mike Lambert to begin his presentation Friday. And his audience of more than 60 people at the Community Needs Forum luncheon responded with uncomfortable chuckles.
Lambert’s next statement deepened the discomfort: “And it’s not just Concordia; it’s everywhere.”
Lambert, who operates Schendel Pest Control in Concordia, was invited to the special lunch meeting at the Nazareth Motherhouse to talk about the parasitic insects and how to prevent them. The topic was significant enough to draw a record crowd to the 34th meeting of the Community Needs Forum.
Bed bugs — small, flat, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of people while they sleep — are found across the globe. In the United States, they had been all but eradicated by the 1950s, through the use of DDT and other similar potent insecticides.
But DDT was banned for agricultural use in the U.S. in 1972 and then banned worldwide in 2001. Reports of widespread infestations in major U.S. cities began popping up in the late 1990s.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bed bugs are not be considered a medical or public health hazard because they are not known to spread disease. But they do bite, which can cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that could increase the chance of a secondary skin infection, the CDC reports.
When Orkin Pest Control published its annual “top 50 bed bug risk cities” list this week, the locations were coast to coast — and beyond. Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle were all on the list, as were Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Denver, Omaha, St. Louis and Kansas City — and even Honolulu.
“They started seeing them in the ‘gateway cities’ on both coasts in the late 0’90s,” Lambert said, “and then they spread both ways inland. It was only a matter of time before they were everywhere.”
There are treatments to eradicate infested homes, but they are time-consuming and expensive, Lambert said.
In an average home, the cost of a chemical treatment begins at about $750, while heat treatment — warming the entire home and its contents to 120 degrees – starts at roughly $1,500. The most expensive alternative is fumigation, which costs in the neighborhood of $5,000.
So the best alternative, Lambert said, “is to keep from getting them.”
That begins by decluttering the area where you sleep, since the pests are generally found within 5 feet of a bed or other sleeping areas.
Look for signs of bed bugs around your sleeping area. Adult bed bugs are about the size of a tick, “so you can see them,” he noted. You can also see dark red spots where they have been, on the underside of a mattress and box spring, as well as the headboard and bed frame.
Then, “Be very careful about what you bring home,” he said. “Used furniture, clothes, bedding… If you see what looks like a perfectly good recliner sitting next to a dumpster, leave it there.”
Bed bugs in an infested home can “hitchhike” on people and their clothing, so if you sit on a couch or put your coat on a chair, you could end up taking the pests home with you.
Lambert even noted the coat rack where forum participants left their jackets pushed together. “You’ll notice I just hung my coat away from that.”
More nervous laughter.
Lambert said people traveling out of town should put their suitcases in the bathtub while they check their hotel room for bed bugs. “Pull up the mattress and the covering, look at the bed board, inspect everything,” he said.
He cautioned people about retail products that claim to prevent or kill bed bugs. “There are so many things available – and they make millions and millions of dollars off them – but they don’t do any good,” he said.
Two organic products that may work are diatomaceous earth and silica gel or powder, but they are both extremely messy, slow-acting and can be dangerous for humans and animals to breathe, Lambert noted.
Steam-cleaning can also been effective on carpeting and along the seams of mattresses, he said. But, he cautioned, “Any crack you can get a credit card into is big enough for a bed bug.”