- Do Bed Bugs Ever Go Away On Their Own?
- What Causes Infestations to Occur?
- What to Do if You Have Bed Bugs
- Lawyers for Bed Bug Infestations from Hotels or Apartments
- Dr. Oz Takes Up Fight Against Bedbugs
- Top Ten Tips to Prevent or Control Bed Bugs
- 1. Make sure you really have bed bugs, not fleas, ticks or other insects.
- 2. Don’t panic!
- 3. Think through your treatment options — Don’t immediately reach for the spray can.
- 4. Reduce the number of hiding places — Clean up the clutter.
- 5. Regularly wash and heat-dry your bed sheets, blankets, bedspreads and any clothing that touches the floor.
- 6. Do-it-yourself freezing may not be a reliable method for bed bug control.
- 7. Kill bed bugs with heat, but be very careful.
- 8. Don’t pass your bed bugs on to others.
- 9. Reduce the number of bed bugs to reduce bites.
- 10. Turn to the professionals, if needed.
- Why bed bugs have made a horrifying comeback
- ISOTECH Pest to Appear on Nationally Syndicated “The Dr. Oz Show” Television Program in Los Angeles
Do Bed Bugs Ever Go Away On Their Own?
It’s never pleasant to realize that your home or apartment has bed bugs. Constant itching, potential property replacement, visits to the doctor, costly pest control services — the list of stressors and hassles goes on and on. But do you really have to go through all that, or could the infestation sort itself out? Is there any shred of hope your bed bugs could just… disappear after awhile? Our apartment bed bug attorneys explain why you can’t count on bed bugs to vanish by themselves — and even more importantly, what you should do if you’re dealing with an infestation.
Whitney, LLP has recovered millions of dollars for our clients for bed bug bites, scarring, emotional distress, and property damage in bed bug cases against hotels, vacation rentals, apartments, Section 8 rentals and furniture companies. Some of our past bed bug lawsuit and claim settlement results are here. Contact Us Now at (410) 583 8000 for your Free Consultation, or use our Online Quick Contact form
What Causes Infestations to Occur?
Most insects are seasonal creatures who come and go as the weather changes. Ants can be a nuisance during the summer months — but they tend to disappear once the weather cools again. Ladybugs gather in massive swarms as summer transitions into fall — but by the time November rolls around, they vanish as abruptly as they came. On a physiological level, many insects simply cannot withstand fall and winter temperatures: they thrive during warm months, and die off or migrate as the sun shifts.
Unfortunately, bed bugs aren’t quite as sensitive.
Bed bugs don’t appear in homes, hotels, and apartments simply because they’re seeking warmth, have been driven from their nests or hives (which they do not build), or smell sugar or garbage. The causes of infestations are more numerous and complex. Wherever they are, you can be certain they want one thing: human blood.
While bed bugs have been noted in the writings of Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates as early as 400 B.C., they have flourished throughout much of the 20th and 21st centuries due to contemporary factors like:
- Increased resistance to commonly-used pesticides, particularly those in the pyrethroid and pyrethrin classes. This issue stems from two factors:
- Resistance gradually building up from one generation to the next, a product of the passage of time which would not have been as problematic just one or two centuries ago.
- Industrial abandonment of dangerous (yet effective) pesticides like DDT, which was commonly used after World War II. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the agricultural use of DDT on December 31, 1972. (Even then, in the original press release issuing the announcement, the EPA cited “increased insect resistance” as one of the reasons for the ban.)
- Increased domestic and international travel, which helps bed bugs spread across state, country, and even continental lines. Bed bugs are exceptionally good at hiding undetected in luggage and clothing for several reasons:
- They do not announce their presence with conspicuous noises like wasps, bees, cockroaches, Cicadas, or flies.
- They have tiny, flattened bodies — approximately five millimeters in length — which enable them to wedge themselves into the tightest of spaces. Their dull brown color further helps them blend in with pet fur and dark clothing or bedding.
- They are rapid crawlers, capable of covering up to three to four feet per minute.
- Ability to acclimate to a wide range of hot and cold temperatures. Heat treatments must raise ambient temperatures to at least 113 degrees, for at least 90 minutes, in order to be effective. At the other end of the spectrum, bed bugs can also survive temperatures near freezing for extended periods of time. The University of Minnesota recommends four consecutive days of exposure to temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Can you fit your mattress in your freezer?
What to Do if You Have Bed Bugs
There’s no question that bed bugs are exceptionally hardy creatures. But what does this mean for infestation victims?
This probably isn’t the news you wanted to hear, but unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that you simply cannot afford to wait your bed bugs out. Not only will the infestation fail to clear up on its own — it will spread and intensify with each passing day. Studies show that bed bugs can live up to one year without feeding, and even longer given certain environmental circumstances. Given that female bed bugs can lay between two to five eggs per day, an ignored or mismanaged infestation can quickly turn into an unbearable and expensive situation.
Remember, bed bugs have entered your space for one reason only: to feed on you. As long as you remain in your home or apartment, your bed bugs have no reason to travel elsewhere. Why would they, when they can easily feed on your blood night after night as you sleep? Bed bugs will not abandon a stable, readily accessible food supply — unless you give them a reason to.
The longer you wait to contact a licensed and certified pest control professional, the more bed bugs you will have. The more bed bugs you have (and the longer you have them), the greater your risk of exposure to serious illnesses like Chagas Disease and hepatitis B becomes. Finally, prolonged infestations are more difficult to eradicate successfully, which simply means greater expense and inconvenience to you.
On the other hand, you can minimize the risk of sustaining serious injuries or property damage by intervening during the early stages of infestation. The sooner you contact a licensed pest control company, the easier it will be to exterminate the bed bugs and return to your normal life. If you are a renter, talk to your landlord before contacting a pest control company yourself. Depending on the provisions of the municipal code applicable to your city or county, it’s possible that your landlord is responsible for bed bug treatments. Expenses related to eradication may not necessarily have to come out of your pocket.
Lawyers for Bed Bug Infestations from Hotels or Apartments
If you’ve suffered serious injuries, emotional distress or financial losses due to an apartment or hotel bed bug infestation, the attorneys of Whitney, LLP may be able to help. To start discussing your situation in a free and confidential legal consultation, Contact Us Now at (410) 583 8000 for your Free Consultation, or use our Online Quick Contact form, and we will be in touch.
Dr. Oz Takes Up Fight Against Bedbugs
They forced a New Jersey movie theater to close, shut down San Diego’s largest firehouse, crawled into the stacks at a Fort Myers, Fla., library, and have been reported by guests at hotels across the country.
After six decades of living nearly bedbug-free, the United States is facing a national infestation. Bedbug outbreaks have been reported in every state and in every type of neighborhood.
“The incidence of bedbug infestation has risen 500 percent in the last few years alone,” says Mehmet Oz, MD, a leading cardiac surgeon, host of the Daytime Emmy Award-winning The Dr. Oz Show, and featured health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show. “And they’re not just in dirty hotels; they’re at the five-star ones and they’re swarming the public places you visit every day.”
Why Are We Infested With Bedbugs?
What’s going on? Are Americans failing to keep their homes and public spaces clean?
Actually, no. A common misperception about bedbugs is that they only show up in dirty homes and apartments. In fact, says Dr. Oz, “A lack of cleanliness has no relationship to the likelihood of bedbugs.”
Instead, our concern about the environment has contributed to the current scourge. Bedbugs were nearly eliminated in the United States through the use of strong pesticides. But after these pesticides were banned in the United States in the 1990s, and as international travel increased, bedbugs began to reappear, and their presence is continuing to increase rapidly.
Are Bedbug Bites Dangerous?
While most people cringe at the thought of bedbugs, there is one piece of good news about these wingless biting insects: “There is currently no evidence that they transmit infectious disease,” says Dr. Oz.
Still, when they invade a space, they multiply rapidly, and by the time you notice bites, there could be hundreds or thousands in your home. They don’t like light, which is why people generally are bitten in dark places like movie theaters or while asleep. And since the bite is painless, victims usually don’t notice until they wake up.
“Bedbugs hunt for bare patches of skin and typically inflict several clusters of bites that are lined up in a row,” explains Dr. Oz. “These bites may even go unnoticed or be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other types of rashes.”
Bedbug bites can be very itchy, but usually go away on their own within a week or two. Bites can be treated with an over-the-counter skin cream containing hydrocortisone and an over-the-counter oral antihistamine. Only in very rare cases has a serious allergic reaction occurred.
How Can You Protect Your Home From Bedbugs?
Because they’re called bedbugs, a common misconception is that they mainly hide out in mattresses. But they live anywhere people are, including chairs, sofas, clothing, and carpets.
Bedbugs get into your house as hitchhikers, either on people or on items brought into the house. Knowing where to look is critical, says Dr. Oz. “Bedbugs hide in dark spots where they’re unlikely to be disturbed,” he says. When you hunt for them, you may not see live bugs, so keep an eye out for their calling cards: rust-colored spots (blood stains), eggs (pearly white and one millimeter long), molted skins, and black specks.
A bedbug infestation is a job for a professional, Dr. Oz says. Bug bombs don’t work and could cause the bugs to move to other parts of your house.
Here are a few things you can do to try to keep them out.
- At the movies, keep your bags on the floor, not on a nearby seat. Bring a small flashlight and inspect your seat. Look in crevices and under armrests.
- At the mall, check clothing before trying it on or purchasing it. Look under the arms, behind the collar, and inside cuffs and seams. “Remember, you’re not the first person to touch it,” says Dr. Oz. “Someone may have returned the very shirt you’re about to take home, and there’s a good chance it entered their bedroom.”
- When your return from a high-risk area like a movie theater, flea market, or mall, throw your clothes into a dryer on high heat for 30 minutes. Place shoes in a pillowcase before putting them in the dryer.
- When traveling, inspect your hotel room and keep luggage on racks as far from beds and sofas as possible. When you return home, wash clothes in hot water or dry on high heat. Before bringing luggage into living areas, vacuum it thoroughly inside and out.
- Inspect used furniture before bringing it into your home.
No one likes to think about biting bugs taking up residence in their bed or couch. But with a few precautions, Dr. Oz says, you have a good chance of keeping your home bedbug-free.
by Jasmine Moy
It started with three little red dots, an Orion’s belt on my arm. “Spider bites,” I told myself. But out of curiosity, I asked my roommate whether she had any bites too.
“Oh yeah, a bunch, actually,” she said, and proceeded to show me clusters of bites on her stomach, arms and legs.
“Why haven’t you said anything until now?!” I asked.
“They don’t itch, I didn’t think they were anything to worry about,” she said. If there’s a hall of fame for famous last words, this probably deserves a spot on the wall. What ensued were weeks of largely sleepless nights punctuated by nightmares galore, and blood, sweat, tears, public shaming and the ceaseless bagging up of everything I owned.
According to a 2009 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in half of all bedbug cases, people will not show any visible marks, which, scary. You may have them now and not know it!
For that other 50%, reactions will vary. They may or may not itch, they may be small and red or larger and blotchy. “Bites are often noted in linear groups of 3, sometimes called â€˜breakfast, lunch, and dinner,’” it is often noted.
I learned if you shift slightly or breathe deeply as they’re feeding on you, they think you’ve woken up and start to head back to the mattress, but when you stop moving, they then stop to finish their meal. My Orion’s belt was a bed bug three-course meal.
Other frightening facts: they know when you’re in your deepest sleep, so often feed about 2 hours before sunrise; they can find you by your breath because they sense and hunt out carbon dioxide; you’ll almost never feel them biting you because they inject into you their saliva, which contains an anesthetic, while they withdraw the blood of their host; they can live for a full year or more without feeding, though a recent study by an entomologist out of Virginia Tech reported that newer generations of pesticide-resistant (?!) bedbugs survived only two months without feeding.
The good news? They aren’t known to spread diseases! At least not yet.
For me, it wasn’t enough to see the bites. I wanted a visual that bugs were living in my bed. I read that they hide in the corners of your mattress and box spring. You may not see the bugs but you’ll see the fecal spots they leave behind (eww), which look as if someone took a fine-tipped sharpie to the seams of your mattress.
Google Image search results inevitably show the worst possible scenarios, no matter what you’re looking up, but because I caught them early (no thanks to my roommate), mine looked like this, not like this. At this point, though I still hadn’t seen any bed bugs, I knew what they looked like. Hours and hours poring over photos on the internet and I’d become a sort of self-taught expert. They are rust colored, leaf shaped, vary in size (from 1mm up to 5mm), flat and they have visible ridges across their backs.
If you have no bites and you see nothing on your mattress, you’re probably in good shape. If you’re still worried, don’t call in the beagles yet. Try this cheap, do-it-yourself test that lures bedbugs with the carbon dioxide that dry ice emits.
So, I realized that my apartment was infested. Because never breathing again is not an option, I sought a solution.
Here is a short list of things that you should absolutely not do. Not only do these things not solve your problem, they’re expensive and time consuming.
1. DO NOT PANIC. Panicking leads to doing all of the things on this list.
2. Do not throw away your mattress. Even if you put a sign that says, “bedbugs!” on it, you never know who might pick it up, including someone else in your building, which means you’re making the problem bigger for yourself.
3. Do not buy a new mattress. If you haven’t thoroughly attended to the rest of your belongings, they’ll find your new mattress in no time.
4. Do not move. You’ll probably move them with you.
5. Do not bring all your clothes to the dry cleaner. It’s pointless, see above.
There are however a number of cheap ways to start combating the problem.
1. Get carpet tape (that’s the thick, double-sided stuff) and roll a line of it in your apartment doorways, which will keep them from getting in or out of your room/apartment. (Some have suggested outlining your bed with it, which seems extreme and is not aesthetically pleasing but would work as a preventive measure.)
2. Put the legs of your bed in small plastic containers and put Â½ an inch of baby oil in the containers, which will keep bugs from getting into or out of your bed (they’re not good climbers).
3. Invest in mattress covers to cover your mattress and box spring.
4. Buy a gallon or so of rubbing alcohol and some spray bottles. Rubbing alcohol is your new best friend. It not only kills bed bug eggs, but also works as a repellent to keep them from laying new ones, and keeps them from biting you at night.
However, whatever the Internet says about being able to conquer the bugs all by yourself, I wouldn’t try it. Just as it’s unwise to get cut-rate Lasik, or fly to Mexico for plastic surgery, the risks outweigh the cost of paying a good professional.
My roommate had been working at a restaurant and the owner there recommended Mario to us. He was no-nonsense and comforting. He assured us that we weren’t dirty people and that we had nothing to be ashamed of. Just last week he’d seen a bedbug crawling on a guy’s shirt on the subway (oof) so really, you can get them any place! This somehow managed to make me feel both better and not-at-all better at the same exact time.
Before he could come and spray (fumigating almost never works in one shot, he said, and heating/freezing all your things costs a fortune and requires days in extreme temperatures, either below 10 degrees or above 115 degrees Fahrenheit), we had to take every object we owned, spray it thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, and bag it. Electronics could be given a once over with alcohol wipes. All clothes had to be put in the dryer for 10 minutes and bagged.
“When I get there,” he informed us, “I want all the bags in the center of each room, leave suitcases out, mattresses uncovered, all shelves and dressers empty. I will not touch your apartment unless this is done.” Yes, sir!
Over the course of the next week, as I carried load after load of laundry up and down my 5th floor walkup to the corner laundromat, I couldn’t think of anything worse that could happen to a person, short of terminal illness or loss of a limb. Even then, I assumed this had a silver lining: “Hey! Less body area to feast on!”
I sprayed myself head to toe in rubbing alcohol each night. I slept without covers and kept a flashlight next to my bed so that when I woke up in the middle of the night (I was being startled awake by nightmares several times an evening, go figure), I could try to catch them in the act. Why? I don’t know. Too afraid to kill a bug with my bare hands, I’d probably have just flicked it onto something else to burrow in.
Every morning I’d spend fifteen minutes inspecting every inch of my body to see whether a bite I had was a new one or not (some people mark them with pens, but that seems, to me, to call more attention to them than necessary).
You start looking for bedbugs on strangers on the train. You start imagining what kind of people let them get to the point at which piles of them are found in corners, and mattresses are covered like beehives. I was afraid to tell people I had bedbugs, afraid that if they knew, they wouldn’t want me in their houses. I wouldn’t blame them.
Bedbugs are, in a word, traumatic. But little by little, the bags started to accumulate. It turned out to be a great excuse to clean house. Any clothes that weren’t worth carrying up the four flights of stairs after their cleansing trip in the dryer went straight into a Salvation Army bin outside the laundromat. I invested in those vacuum seal bags, which conveniently also saved me a ton of storage space! I felt good knowing that all the clothes I was wearing were sealed in bags that no bug could penetrate.
Vintage, delicates and things with sequins went to the dry cleaner-but even then, you have to tell them you have bedbugs and then they may request you take your business elsewhere, which is humiliating.
But guess what? There are worse things than being humiliated at the dry cleaner. Like, say, getting bed bugs.
Mario showed up a week later and nodded his approval. He surveyed the place with eyes that rivaled your average predatory bird. From the doorway he’d spot something across the room, walk briskly to a random spot of floorboard, and with his index finger would swipe up a bug no bigger than the head of a pin. He’d show it to me and then crush it between his fingers, leaving nothing but a spot of blood between them.
He was a machine. And the problem was worse than I’d thought. Though all small, there were bugs in rooms that nobody slept in, in places we never saw them. He tore the cheap fabric from the bottom of my boxspring and I saw, for the first time, the bugs in my bed. They had managed to climb through the goddamn seams!
Mario sprayed like crazy, every inch, up and down the walls, drenched my suitcase, drenched my mattress-and in the end, he said he was fairly confident he got them all.
We were instructed to let the mattress dry for 24 hours, to sleep somewhere else for the night and to cover them the minute we got back. We weren’t allowed to wash the floor or walls for at least two months and were advised to keep our stuff in bags for same amount of time.
It’s four years later, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. Looking back, despite the unbelievable hassle and the nightmares and all, I think I got off easy. I had some 12 bites in total, with no severe allergic reaction to them. We caught the problem fairly early. I live in a neighborhood where 10 minutes in a dryer only costs a quarter. What’s more, I’ve been bedbug-free ever since.
Even now though, I keep the legs of my bed in little containers with oil in them. Sounds crazy, right? Well, it’s a small price to pay for some peace of mind.
Jasmine Moy lives in New York City and suggests you use extreme caution before Google Image searching the subject at hand.
Previously: Bedbugs: Is No One Safe? One Woman’s Story.
Top photo by pbump, from Flickr.
Second mattress photo by Commodore Gandalf Cunningham, from Flickr.
Photos of bagged clothes by proud bedbug survivor cuttlefish, from Flickr.
Once a pest of the past, bedbugs now infest every state in the U.S.. Cimex lectularius—small, flattened insects that feed solely on mammalian and avian blood—have been living with humans since ancient times. Abundant in the U.S. prior to World War II, bedbugs all but vanished during the 1940s and ’50s thanks to improvements in hygiene and the use of pesticides. In the past 10 years, however, the pests have staged a comeback worldwide—an outbreak after the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney was a harbinger of things to come. This revival may be the worst yet, experts say, due to densely populated urban areas, global travel and increasing pesticide resistance—something to consider as the summer travel season gets underway.
“By every metric that we use, it’s getting worse and worse,” says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Health authorities and pest control operators are regularly flooded with calls, and the epidemic may not have yet peaked. And because bedbugs are indoor pests, there are no high or low seasons throughout the year, he adds, only continual bombardment. “It’s just the beginning of the problem in the U.S.,” Schal says.
Spreading rapidly with the bedbugs is a mass of misinformation about their biology and behavior. Straight from the experts, here are the facts behind some of the most notorious myths about the diminutive bloodsuckers.
Myth 1: Bedbugs can fly
Bedbugs lack wings, and therefore cannot fly. That is unless you put a blow dryer behind them, says Stephen Kells, a bedbug researcher at the University of Minnesota. Then they’ll fly about 1.2 meters. On their own, bedbugs crawl about a meter a minute, he says.
Myth 2: Bedbugs reproduce quickly
Compared with other insects, bedbugs are slow to reproduce: Each adult female produces about one egg per day; a common housefly lays 500 eggs over three to four days. Each bedbug egg takes 10 days to hatch and another five to six weeks for the offspring to develop into an adult.
Myth 3: Bedbugs can typically live a year without a meal
Scientists debate this point, but evidence suggests that at normal room temperature, about 23 degrees Celsius, bedbugs can only survive two to three months without a blood meal. But because they are cold-blooded, their metabolism will slow down in chillier climates, and the insects may live up to a year without feeding.
Myth 4: Bedbugs bite only at night
Although bedbugs are generally nocturnal, they’re like humans—if they’re hungry, they’ll get up and get something to eat. “If you go away to visit a friend for a week and you come back and sit down on the couch, even though it’s daytime the bedbugs will come looking for you,” Schal says. Keeping a light on, then, unfortunately does not keep these tiny vampires away.
Myth 5: Bedbugs live exclusively in mattresses
“‘Bedbug’ is such a misnomer,” Kells says. “They should also be called pet bugs and suitcase bugs and train bugs and movie theater bugs.” Bedbugs spread away from beds into living areas and can be seen on any surface, he says, including chairs, railings and ceilings.
Myth 6: Bedbugs prefer unsanitary, urban conditions
“Bedbugs are terribly nondiscriminatory,” Schal says. Bedbugs can be found anywhere from ritzy high-rises to homeless shelters. The prevalence of the bugs in low-income housing is therefore not a result of the insect’s preference, but of dense populations and the lack of money to pay for proper elimination strategies. “Any location is vulnerable,” Kells says. “But some people are going to have a harder time getting control of them because it is such an expensive treatment.”
Myth 7: Bedbugs travel on our bodies
Bedbugs do not like heat, Kells says. They therefore do not stick in hair or on skin, like lice or ticks, and prefer not to remain in our clothes close to our bodily heat. Bedbugs are more likely to travel on backpacks, luggage, shoes and other items farther removed from our bodies.
Myth 8: Bedbugs transmit disease
Bedbug bites can lead to anxiety, sleeplessness and even secondary infections, but there have been no reported cases of bedbugs transmitting disease to humans. They do, however, harbor human pathogens: At least 27 viruses, bacteria, protozoa and more have been found in bedbugs, although these microbes do not reproduce or multiply within the insects. Canadian researchers announced (pdf) in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases that bedbugs isolated from three individuals in a Vancouver hospital carried methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, aka MRSA. Still, there have been no reported cases that the bugs actually transmit human disease.
Myth 9: We should bring back DDT
When the controversial pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, most bed bugs were already resistant to it, Schal says, and today’s populations are even more widely resistant thanks to the use of a new class of pesticides. Pyrethroids, the main class of pesticides used against bedbugs today, targets sodium channels in bedbug cells, just like DDT. Consequently, as bedbugs develop resistance to pyrethroids, they also become cross-resistant to DDT.
Myth 10: You can spray bedbugs away
Thanks to pesticide resistance, those cans of spray at your local hardware store simply will not do, Schal says, adding: “Relying strictly on chemicals is generally not a good solution.” The most effective solutions are fumigation and heat treatments, but these can cost a cool $2,000 to $3,000 apiece for a single-family home. Scientists are diligently pursuing other strategies, including freezing and bait similar to that used for cockroaches. In the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology Schal and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a technique that employs inexpensive infrared and vibration sensors to track bedbug movement, which could be applied to the development of automated traps that detect the pests.
Top Ten Tips to Prevent or Control Bed Bugs
10 consejos útiles para eliminar las chinches de cama en español
1. Make sure you really have bed bugs, not fleas, ticks or other insects.
You can compare your insect to the pictures on our Identifying bed bugs Web page or show it to your local extension agent.Exit (Extension agents are trained in pest control issues and know your local area.)
2. Don’t panic!
It can be difficult to eliminate bed bugs, but it’s not impossible. Don’t throw out all of your things because most of them can be treated and saved. Throwing stuff out is expensive, may spread the bed bugs to other people’s homes and could cause more stress.
3. Think through your treatment options — Don’t immediately reach for the spray can.
Be comprehensive in your approach. Try other things first. Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques may reduce the number of bed bugs and limit your contact with pesticides. If pesticides are needed, always follow label directions or hire a professional. There is help available to learn about treatment options. (4 pp, 480 K, About PDF)
4. Reduce the number of hiding places — Clean up the clutter.
A cluttered home provides more places for bed bugs to hide and makes locating and treating them harder. If bed bugs are in your mattress, using special bed bug covers (encasements) on your mattress and box springs makes it harder for bed bugs to get to you while you sleep. Leave the encasements on for a year. Be sure to buy a product that has been tested for bed bugs and is strong enough to last for the full year without tearing.
5. Regularly wash and heat-dry your bed sheets, blankets, bedspreads and any clothing that touches the floor.
This reduces the number of bed bugs. Bed bugs and their eggs can hide in laundry containers/hampers Remember to clean them when you do the laundry.
6. Do-it-yourself freezing may not be a reliable method for bed bug control.
While freezing can kill bed bugs, temperatures must remain very low for a long time. Home freezers may not be cold enough to kill bed bugs; always use a thermometer to accurately check the temperature. Putting things outside in freezing temperatures could kill bed bugs, but there are many factors that can affect the success of this method.
7. Kill bed bugs with heat, but be very careful.
Raising the indoor temperature with the thermostat or space heaters won’t do the job. Special equipment and very high temperatures are necessary for successful heat treatment. Black plastic bags in the sun might work to kill bed bugs in luggage or small items, if the contents become hot enough. Bed bugs die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F). To kill bed bugs with heat, the room or container must be even hotter to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding
8. Don’t pass your bed bugs on to others.
Bed bugs are good hitchhikers. If you throw out a mattress or furniture that has bed bugs in it, you should slash or in some way destroy it so that no one else takes it and gets bed bugs.
9. Reduce the number of bed bugs to reduce bites.
Thorough vacuuming can get rid of some of your bed bugs. Carefully vacuum rugs, floors, upholstered furniture, bed frames, under beds, around bed legs, and all cracks and crevices around the room. Change the bag after each use so the bed bugs can’t escape. Place the used bag in a tightly sealed plastic bag and in an outside garbage bin.
10. Turn to the professionals, if needed.
Hiring an experienced, responsible pest control professional can increase your chance of success in getting rid of bed bugs. If you hire an expert, be sure it’s a company with a good reputation and request that it use an IPM approach. Contact your state pesticide agency for guidance about hiring professional pest control companies. Also, EPA’s Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety provides information about IPM approaches, how to choose a pest control company, safe handling of pesticides, and emergency information.
Why bed bugs have made a horrifying comeback
For 60 years, Americans thought they’d vanquished bedbugs forever. They were wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
Bedbugs have been a staple of American life since the Mayflower. In 1926, infestations in hotels and apartments had become so common that experts couldn’t recall a time when they weren’t a problem. People hated being bitten in the night by these pesky bloodsuckers hiding in mattresses, but the bugs seemed impossible to wipe out.
Then everything changed in 1939, when a Swiss chemist named Paul Hermann Muller discovered the pesticide DDT, which proved stunningly effective at killing insects. For decades thereafter, DDT and other chemicals helped keep America’s homes and hotels bedbug-free.
But it didn’t last. Since 2000, a new strain of pesticide-resistant bedbugs has been popping up in the US. In 2009, there were 11,000 reported complaints in New York City alone. In New Jersey, a Rutgers study found, fully 1 in 8 low-income apartments had infestations, with bugs hiding in sofas, beds, and tiny cracks in the wall. Many residents don’t realize anything’s amiss until they wake up in the night with strange bites and rashes. By then, the unwelcome guests can be tough to get rid of.
One of the best recent books about bedbugs is Brooke Borel’s Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedroom and Took Over the World (the book was partially funded by the Alfred Sloan Foundation). Last year, I called Borel, a science journalist, to hear more about how bedbugs made a comeback, why they’re so tenacious, and whether we might ever get rid of them again.
Brad Plumer: I’d half assumed bedbugs were a very recent phenomenon, so it was fascinating to see that even the ancient Egyptians were trying to cast spells to ward them off.
Brooke Borel: Yeah, one thing that struck me were the similarities through history. When the bedbug resurgence happened in the last 15 years, we had all these newspaper articles saying, “Oh my god, they’re in the movie theaters, they’re in this place, in that place.” But that’s always been the case.
You can go back and read descriptions of old beds with jars around the legs that contained paraffin to ward off bedbugs. That’s just an old-school version of these little traps you can buy today to put under your bed. It’s an old story that’s been repeating itself forever.
BP: There was this 60-year period after World War II where we’d vanquished bedbugs. How did that happen?
BB: A big part of that story happened in 1939, when a Swiss chemist discovered the insecticidal properties of DDT. These were the first synthetic insecticides, and they were way more effective than the natural botanicals or elemental poisons we had been using previously.
Most insects had never experienced this type of poison before — and they were very vulnerable to it. So we were able to knock bedbug numbers down. One key thing about DDT is that it leaves a residue on surfaces for a long time: months, maybe even a year. That was especially effective against bedbugs, because they hide in cracks either during the day or whenever you’re not there to provide food. Earlier sprays might have dissipated or not gotten down into the cracks where the bedbugs were. But DDT leaves a residue, and bedbugs would walk through it in order to come eat.
There might have been other factors in knocking down bedbug numbers, too. Some experts point to different housekeeping practices that emerged after World War II — people were using vacuum cleaners more, and so on. That’s more anecdotal than anything else. Or in the United Kingdom, they were able to reduce bedbug numbers before the war, in the 1930s, because they completely tore down all these tenement buildings and rebuilt them.
Bedbugs crawl around in a container on display during the second National Bed Bug Summit in Washington, DC, February 2, 2011. (Media for Medical/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
BP: So how did bedbugs make a comeback? It wasn’t simply because we banned DDT in the 1970s, was it?
BB: No. Some people still say the only reason we have bedbugs now is because we banned DDT . But that’s just not true. We would’ve had this problem regardless of the ban. The bigger problem is that bedbugs were becoming resistant to DDT, and that was starting to happen way before the ban occurred.
DDT and other pesticides work on the nervous system of insects — often by screwing with their ion channels and leaving them open so that it fries the nervous system. These new resistant bedbugs were essentially able to close that channel again, so that didn’t happen.
BP: Okay, so some bedbugs evolved resistance to DDT. But how did they become so widespread?
BB: The idea is that pockets of resistant bedbugs evolved somewhere in the world, probably in more than one place. Then in the 1980s and 1990s, you have this huge increase in air travel both domestically and internationally — it got cheaper through the deregulation of airlines in the US and a set of new treaties in the 1990s. That probably helped spread these resistant bedbugs.
The question we still don’t know is where, exactly, the resistant bedbugs came from. One hypothesis is that it started in Eastern Europe. There’s also the idea that resistant bedbugs came from somewhere in Africa because of the use of pyrethroid-impregnated mosquito nets. I think that’s pretty compelling, too.
American Museum of Natural History entomologist Louis Sorkin feeds bedbugs on his hand in New York, April 17, 2014. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
BP: So what is it that makes bedbugs so tenacious and hard to kill? Is it just this pesticide resistance?
BB: I think it’s the combination of so many things. They’re cryptic insects, and they hide during the day, which makes them hard to detect with the human eye.
But the resistance is definitely a problem. Bedbugs have what’s called a knockdown resistance — it’s the same genetic mutation that gives them resistance to DDT. Separately, there are enzymes called P450s that break down the insecticides more quickly, so that they’re not as toxic to insects. There’s also research that some insects may be growing thicker exoskeletons, making it tougher for insecticides to penetrate.
There are other factors, too. Some people aren’t allergic to them, so they might catch the problem only far later, when it’s become a really bad infestation. Also, bedbugs can spread very easily in cities — because to get rid of them you have to work with other people sharing living space or sharing walls. That can be incredibly difficult.
There’s also a lot of shame involved in having bedbugs. And it’s expensive to get rid of them. So people might initially try to hide the fact that they have an infestation —until it gets worse and worse, and then it’s spilling over to neighbors.
BP: You mention in the book that you’ve experienced bedbug attacks several times. What is it that makes them so hellish?
BB: Before I answer that, I will say the reason I think I’ve encountered them so often is that I’m really, really allergic. Like in this Chicago hotel , I was staying with a friend, and he didn’t get any bites. But he just might not have been allergic. A lot of people might sleep in beds with bedbugs and not notice at all.
Now, on the psychological part, probably any psychiatrist who has dealt with someone with bedbugs will tell you the same thing.
There is something about the fact that your bedroom is your sanctuary, and you’re also the most vulnerable in your bed, because you’re sleeping. You really don’t get much more vulnerable than that; you’re literally paralyzed. And to have something that’s hiding that you can’t see that comes out and attacks you in your sanctuary, that is just really psychological difficult.
Pestec technician Carlos I. Agurto inspects a couch cushion for bedbugs at an apartment April 30, 2009, in San Francisco, California. Cases of bedbug infestations are on the rise across the US, with many people bringing them into their homes after visiting hotels and airports. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BP: Why can’t we just invent a new chemical or insecticide to kill these bedbugs?
BB: It’s a pipeline problem, just like the discovery of antibiotics or other drugs or other insecticides. It gets increasingly difficult to find the right chemicals and figure out whether they’re safe enough for us to use.
Bedbugs are especially difficult, because they live in our bedroom, and that’s one of the places we want to be especially careful when it comes to applying insecticides. So that’s part of the issue there.
It’s also incredibly expensive to research and develop the ingredients that go into an insecticide. The estimate for pesticides is something like $256 million per active ingredient over a period of around a decade. And even though bedbugs seem like a big problem, and it seems like you could make money making a bedbug insecticide, it’s not anything compared to the amount of insecticides we use in agriculture. So it’s not necessarily a major focus of the chemical companies.
BP: So what are the best ideas experts have come up with for getting rid of bedbugs?
BB: Keep in mind that there’s a caveat for anything I could possibly say here. I do think heat treatments are very helpful — bedbugs don’t seem to be developing a resistance to those. Basically you heat a room to a certain temperature, and it kills the bugs and the eggs, without chemicals involved.
The caveats, though, are that this is expensive; it can cost thousands of dollars. It’s not necessarily the best approach in an apartment building, because if you only treat one unit, and the neighbors have bedbugs and aren’t taking care of the problem, then you’ve probably wasted that money, because the bedbugs are going to come back.
Then the other problem is that people have been hearing about this and trying to do their own heat treatments. They’ll use a space heater or something inappropriate, and their houses will catch fire. So it’s not for everyone.
Bedbug insecticide products are displayed at the Bed Bug University North American Summit 2010 on September 22, 2010, in Rosemont, Illinois. (Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
BP: You did a lot of reporting on the multimillion-dollar industry that’s sprung up around controlling bedbugs. And you seemed to come away skeptical. Why?
BB: I think that especially in the United States, we’re still in this Wild West era for bedbug control. There are some people who really believe in their products, but their products are bad. You could walk into a store and see a product that says, “Kills bedbugs on contact.” To a consumer, that sounds great, but all that means is you have to spray it directly on the bedbug. But bedbugs are often hiding, so that’s not necessarily helpful.
There’s a lot of opportunity to take advantage of people’s fears. Even the Federal Trade Commission has caught wind of this — they had two cases against two companies against products advertised as all-natural contact killers, and they said, “You can’t advertise like this.”
BP: Having written the book, what advice would you give for someone who discovered bedbugs in their room?
BB: As far as the psychological stuff goes, I would say it’s going to suck — but don’t panic!
In every city and state, there’s a hodgepodge of rules for who’s responsible financially for a bedbug infestation. So the first step is getting educated on that. If you do rent, your landlord may be legally required to pay for bedbug treatments.
As far as actual treatments go … I have a little section in the book where I say what I would do. It’s not going to be right for every person. Because I’m so allergic, I’d know pretty quickly if I did have bedbugs. So before calling an exterminator, I would try to do all my laundry, do a search and see if I could find the bedbugs and where they’re coming from, clean up, and then see if I was still getting bites. But that’s mainly because I’d be able to tell easily if I was still getting bitten.
But that’s not necessarily right for everyone, and I don’t recommend that for each person. For the most part, I’d suggest people call a professional — though it can be daunting to figure out who’s good.
BP: Do we know if the bedbug problem is getting worse in the United States?
BB: It’s a little tough to say. In general, I don’t think the problem’s getting better; I don’t think there are fewer bugs. I do think people are not freaking out about them as much and are more knowledgeable on how to deal with them.
There’s a survey by the National Pest Management Association, where they interview pest-control people from all over the world and ask how many bedbug cases they had in the last year. And those numbers have continued to rise. Then again, that’s an industry group, and they’ve been making money out of this.
It also really depends on the city. I’m working on an essay about bedbugs in New York City, where numbers show that 311 calls about bedbugs are going down, but those numbers can be deceiving .
BP: You interviewed a lot of scientists for the book — I loved all the pictures of researchers who raise bedbugs for study by feeding them on their own arms.
BB: Some people still do that, though for a lot of these bedbug research labs they have way too many bugs to be able to do that. One of the fascinating things I learned was that it took a long time for scientists to figure out how best to keep bedbugs alive in the lab, given that they’re so hard to kill in the wild.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Remember when “sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite” was just a cute bedtime expression that didn’t mean anything? Well, those days are over. After 6 decades of living largely bed bug-free, the US is facing a national infestation. In fact, the incidence of bed bug infestation has risen 500% in the last few years alone, and they’re not just in dirty hotels – they’re at the 5-star ones as well and swarming the public places you visit every day. Bed bugs are shutting down businesses and being found at your local movie theaters and clothing stores as they inch closer and closer to your home.
Outbreaks of these teeny, blood-sucking critters have been reported in every kind of neighborhood in every state across the country, and that means you’re at risk right now. Here’s what you need to know to truly sleep tight at night – and not fear going out during the day.
Things That Go Bite in the Night
Bed bugs are insects that rely on the blood of humans or animals to survive. As babies, they are tiny as pinheads. A full-grown adult that’s been making a nightly meal of you can balloon to the size of Lincoln’s head on the penny. These little parasites are nocturnal and hate light, so they wait until the dark to creep out for their meals, which is why it can take so long to discover you’ve been sharing your home with them.
Making a Meal Out of You
Bed bugs hunt for a bare patch of skin and then hunker down to fill up before dawn. Someone who has a serious infestation could be bitten as many as 500 times per night. More often, you might see several bites clustered in one spot. Doctors call this “breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” because the bugs are cramming all their meals into a short span of time.
You will likely call it a very itchy rash, because the saliva of bed bugs causes an allergic reaction in many people. Though some people have no response, others can develop asthma, or in very rare cases, life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Going on a Bed Bug Hunt Bed bugs hide in dark spots where they’re unlikely to be disturbed. When you hunt for them, you may not see live bugs, so keep an eye out for their calling cards: rust-colored spots (blood stains), eggs (pearly white and 1 millimeter long), molted skins and black specks. Here’s where to look from them at home – and in “high-risk” public places:
- The boxspring: Lift it up and look underneath and along the seams. In some cases, professionals will slice open the cloth to look inside, because the bugs love the wood frame.
- Nearby furniture: Inspect sofas, the undersides of bureau drawers, behind the headboard, and the backs and undersides of nightstands. Pay special attention to cracks, crevices, and seams.
- On the wall: Peek under picture frames, wall hangings, peeling wallpaper or chipped paint.
- At the movies: The hours you sit in the theater give bed bugs plenty of time to creep into your clothing and bags (don’t put them on the neighboring seat; keep them on the floor). Bring a small flashlight with you and give your seats a thorough inspection. Again, you’ll want to look into the cracks and crevices, where the cloth seating meets the plastic molding, and under the armrests.
- At the mall: Before you pick up a new piece of clothing, remember: you’re not the first person to touch it. Someone may have returned the very shirt you’re about to take home, and there’s a good chance it entered their bedroom. Be extra careful: check under the arms, behind the collar, inside cuffs and at the seams before trying it on or making a purchase.
Stay Calm and Get Help
If you find evidence of bed bugs, call a professional right away. Do not panic and toss your belongings in the street. Moving an infested mattress will just spread the infestation both to other parts of your house and to your neighbors. Bug bombs do not help, and, in some cases, make it much worse, dispersing live bugs to where they cannot be found.
Tossing Out the Welcome Mat
Even if you don’t have a rash or find bed bugs after reading this, there are several important steps you can take to make sure you don’t become one of the icky statistics.
- Lock ’em out: Buy a mattress encasement designed and tested for bed bugs. There’s no way these suckers can get into (or out of) an approved encasement. So, even if bed bugs are introduced to your home, they won’t be able to settle in and will be much easier to spot. Wash your linens weekly (in water at least 120 degrees.)
- Trap ’em: Bed bug interceptors are small plastic dishes that go under bed legs. The bugs can climb up them, but then they slide down into them and become trapped and easy to spot.
- Strip search: When you get home from a “high-risk” area like a flea market, movie theater or mall, take off your clothes and throw them into the dryer immediately, on high heat for 30 minutes. Temperatures of 113 degrees or higher will kill eggs and adults. And don’t forget your shoes; toss them in a pillowcase (to protect your clothes) and throw them in the dryer as well.
- Don’t invite them home: As tempting as that comfy armchair at the yard sale may be, don’t buy it. Used furniture such as beds, sofas, and chairs can harbor hidden bugs and bring them right into your home. Keep clutter around your bed to a minimum and never store anything under the bed.
- Baggage check: When you feel like you’ve come home from an area where you might have been exposed to bed bugs, dump out your purse (in the foyer or garage). Check the seams and pockets, and treat with an insecticide specifically designed for bags and luggage. Next, vacuum out the interior; remove the vacuum filter, put it in a plastic bag, and dispose of it immediately.
- Don’t pick up hitchhikers: If you’re traveling, inspect your hotel room and keep luggage on racks as far from the bed and sofas as possible. When you get home, wash anything that can be laundered in a hot wash, or dry on high heat. Seal others in plastic bags. Leave the luggage in the garage or foyer. Unzip every compartment, and vacuum it from the inside out, taking extra time in the nooks, and disposing of the vacuum filter immediately. You can also treat your luggage with an insecticide. Other options include portable units that heat your suitcase to destroy bugs and eggs.
Virtually eradicated during the last half of the 20th century, the problem of bedbugs is once again on the rise. Bedbugs are small insects that when full grown are about the size and color of an apple seed. They feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Their flat body makes it difficult to see them when they hide.
As recently as 3 years ago we didn’t hear much about bedbugs except in a rhyme often said to children as they prepared for bed, “Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” In the past couple of years there have been rising complaints virtually coast to coast. Bedbugs do not distinguish between rich or poor, clean or dirty. They are the ultimate hitchhiker, hiding in your clothing, luggage, purse, or other personal belongings.
In New York City bedbugs were found in an AMC theater in Times Square causing officials to close the theater. The chairs that were infested have been replaced, and the entire theater exterminated. Contrary to their name, bedbugs have been found in offices, restaurants, movie theaters…you can bet one from school, on the bus, at your doctor’s office…bedbugs are everywhere.
Why are they such a pest? Bedbugs are difficult to deal with because they prefer to feed on human blood, but they don’t need to feed very often.
Some exterminators have said that bedbugs can go as long as a year without feeding and still live. They are nocturnal, preferring to eat just before dawn, and they hide in cracks as narrow as a credit card.
I’ve had a number of patients recently complain of bug bites on their upper body, their arms, necks, and faces. A quick evaluation is enough to recommend to them that they need to take some precautionary measures. While bedbug bites aren’t dangerous because they are not known to spread disease, they are a true irritation.
Who wants to have guests come and spend the night when you know you have bugs biting in the night? Certainly not me, and I’m sure you don’t either!
Take a look in the room where the bites are occurring. Bedbugs are not invisible…they are visible in the seams of a mattress or box spring, or on the frame of the bed itself. Bedbugs will also live in pet beds, cushions on your couch, etc.
Think back, have you recently had a college student come home with some “new” furniture? It may have had a few hitchhikers on board. Most bedbug infestations occur when something that was infested was brought into the home. It may even be that hoard of furniture your brother-in-law asked you to store in your basement. Most bedbug infestations occur when something that was infested was brought into the home.
If you suspect a bedbug infestation you’ll need to take strategic steps to eradicate the problem. Trust me, they won’t go away on their own!
ISOTECH Pest Management, Inc., a provider of commercial and residential pest control and extermination services, is slated to appear on an upcoming episode of “The Dr. Oz Show,” an Emmy Award winning, nationally televised program. During the appearance, Mike Masterson, ISOTECH C.E.O. will cover the growing bed bug epidemic, as well as how to detect and treat bed bug infestations at home. The program is slated to air on Tuesday, September 14 (more information may be found by checking local listings or the program website at www.doctoroz.com).
ISOTECH President Kevin Alden talked about the appearance on The Dr. Oz show, “We are thrilled to have been selected, after years of developing a true proactive canine inspection and “Green” treatment program, to alert Americans to the growing bed bug problem and to let the public know the truth about how we can SEEK HEAT & CERTIFY™ a pest free environment.” Alden continued, “The mere fact that a program like The Dr. Oz show, which pulls a 1.7 or 1.8 rating, would cover bed bugs, is a testament to how serious of a problem we are facing and how the nation is turning to extreme professionals to deal with this epidemic.”
With the ability to combine man, animal, science, and technology, ISOTECH Pest Management, Inc. offers pest control and extermination services to meet residential, commercial, and institutional needs. ISOTECH Pest Management Inc. Programs exceed all relevant state required health and safety regulations. Through Isotech’s canine inspection program, infestation can be pinpointed, allowing treatment to be focused solely on affected rooms. Through their heat only treatment program, Isotech can guaranty a quick return of occupancy for both commercial and residential properties. In addition, Isotech offers a Service Guarantee and Total Satisfaction Guarantee to its customers.
More information about ISOTECH Pest Management, Inc. and the company’s SEEK HEAT & CERTIFY™ program, can be found on its corporate website at isotechpest.com or by calling 1.888.392.8443.
ISOTECH Pest to Appear on Nationally Syndicated “The Dr. Oz Show” Television Program in Los Angeles
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