Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Night, Sleep Tight .....

....and don't let the bed bugs bite. This was something my mom said to me every single night when she tucked me in as a child. But I always thought she was playing with me, never once picturing an actual bug crawling around in my bed. Well, she was teasing me then. But now is a different story. If you tell your child today to avoid the bite of a bed bug, they would really have something to fear and no way to avoid it. Bed bugs are real and they although they were gone for a long period of time, they are back and back with a vengeance. Bed bugs are small insects, a little bit bigger than a flea, and like the flea, their diet consists of the blood of their host. Unlike the flea though, bed bugs only feed on human blood and usually only in the dark of night while you are asleep.  When bitten, people find rashes, psychological effects and on occasion, severe allergic reactions. Although irritating and sometimes painful, most bite reactions can be treated with over the counter lotions and antihistamines.

     So where did the bugs come from, where did they go, and why are they back? Well the actual name for this pesky insect is C. lectularius and according to historical writings they have been around for thousands of years. They were thought to be useful in treating some medical conditions such as ear infections, snake bites and even hysteria. As the insect population grew to uncontrollable numbers though, it became clear that something had to be done to stop it. With the use of the pesticide DDT in the 1940's, bed bugs in the United States were all but completely wiped out.  Although this chemical worked wonders to eliminate the problems that these critters were causing, it was suspected in 1962 to be actually doing more harm than good.  Humans were increasingly developing more types of cancers and animals, mainly birds were dying at alarming rates.  Finally in 1972, after years of debate, DDT was banned worldwide for agricultural use. It was not until 1995 did we see an a return of the dreaded bed bug with a rise in reports of allergic reactions to it bite.

     So lets talk a bit about how you end up becoming a home for the bed bug. First of all you need to be very clear about the fact that you do not need to be a "dirty" person to have bed bugs just like you dont have to be dirty to get head lice. It just happens. They can find many ways to access your house and the most common is by catching a ride in on the back of your pet. They jump off or get knocked off and find their way to a corner of the room in the carpet, a couch, chair, or bed where they burrow in and wait for dinner. You can also unknowingly bring in a used piece of furniture that you have purchased which is already infested. They wait for their host to settle in and warm the bedding area and the carbon dioxcide that you emit calls them out for feeding time. They prefer to feed on human blood by piercing the skin with two hollow feeding tubes while you sleep. You may wake up in the morning with small red spots often in a straight line that are painful or itch.

     Since the outlawing of DDT, there are very few proven ways to kill bed bugs but I will give you a few suggestions that have been known to help in managing the infestations.

  •  Seal up all cracks in your house. Be sure to go around the light switch plates, door jams, window sills and moldings where the carpet meets the walls.
  • steam cleaning has been shown to kill some of the bugs because they cannot survive temperatures above 100 degrees ferenheight. ( Once the bug is dead, be sure to clean up the dead carcus to remove any live eggs left behind)
  • Vacuuming will not get rid of them all but will definately reduce the problem when done frequently.
  • Diatomaceous earth or D.E. is a pool filter aid but can be very effective in killing bed bugs. Dust your matress and furnishings liberally and then cover your matress with zip up cover.  Vacuum and repeat frequently. The D.E. is very sharp and cuts the bugs killing them.  This is not harmful to humans or pets because it is an extremely small particle.
  • When traveling, nevder place your luggage on the floor as bugs will jump inside or attach themselves to the outside and ride home with you.
  • If you have been traveling, place your clothes directly in the washer and then the dryer. Again, bed bugs cannot tolerate temperatures over 100 degrees.  Also be sure to vacuum your luggage thoroughly inside and out before storing.
  • After vacuuming your home, bedding or luggage, be  sure to carefully close up and dispose of the used vacuum bags so not to re-infect your home.
  • Finally, dont expect miracles because most strains of this insect are immune to the effect of most pesticides, but you can visit your local chemical store and ask what has been working best for their customers and how to use it properly.  Remember all pesticides are poison and need to be used according to direction.
     Again, just because you have bed bugs does not mean you are dirty. It means you are unfortunate enough to have had an encounter with this menacing pest. Even the cleanest kids had head lice and you will survive it. If you are human, you will inevitaby find yourself with something like this little pest at some point in your life. Good luck!

1 comment:

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