Good night, sleep tight…

bedbugYou know the rest of it…don’t let the bed bugs bite.  Have you been hearing about these pests as much as I have recently?  For me, that harmless nursery rhyme now has new meaning.   Every time I hear about bedbugs, my whole body squirms.  YUCK!   Bedbugs were actually common in America prior to World War II.  But they were basically eliminated in the industrialized world because of the use of DDT.  But DDT and the use of other strong pesticides has subsequently been banned.  And with the increase in international travel, insecticide resistance, and changes in pest control practices, bedbugs are making an unwelcome comeback in America. 

Bedbugs are reddish brown, flat ovals, about the size of an apple seed.  They may be mistaken for ticks.  They bite and suck blood from humans and got their name because they are most active at night.  They tend to go after exposed skin such as the face, neck, hands, and feet.  Their bites are usually painless and result in small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin.  Sometimes the bites can be red, swollen and itchy and scratching too much can result in infection.  The bites frequently occur in a pattern of three which doctors refer to as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  Believe it or not, there is no evidence that bedbugs can transmit diseases to people and usually their bites require no treatment.  They are more of a nuisance than anything else.

Contrary to popular belief, bedbugs are not a sign of dirtiness.  They don’t care how clean their environment is.  They just want a warm place to hang out with lots of hiding places.   They hide in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards.   Although definitely more common in urban areas where people live in close quarters, bedbugs are not limited to the city.  And they can be passed from person to person very easily—bedbugs are master hitchhikers.  They can cling to luggage, upholstery, and clothing and get a ride to a brand new location with relative ease.  They can even live for months without feeding so they can be found in vacant homes.

Bedbugs are incredibly difficult to get rid of and professional exterminators typically need to be called.  The best thing you can do is prevent them from entering your home in the first place.  Make sure you check all mattresses and upholstered furniture that enters your home.  And at hotels, make sure you place luggage on tables instead of on the floor.  Also check mattresses and seems for any signs of infestation. 

Hope I didn’t make you squirm too much.

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