Bedbug bedlamGood night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite. You should have taken your parents’ bedtime story advice seriously. But they left out one important detail. Don’t let the bedbugs get there in the first place.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
You should have taken your parents’ bedtime story advice seriously. But they left out one important detail.
Don’t let the bedbugs get there in the first place.
According to Robin Trott, Douglas County Extension Service educator for horticulture, the bedbugs are creeping like crazy this year.
“There are five confirmed cases in Alexandria since June,” she said. “They are everywhere right now. It’s going to get epidemic.”
Trott said that most cases of bedbugs occur with people who travel and have stayed in hotels.
“This isn’t just your cheap dives,” she said. “This is Marriots and Sheratons, the Astoria in New York City. It doesn’t matter how clean it is or how expensive it is.”
Bedbugs have been bugging people for more than 3,300 years. They were originally brought to North America by early colonists. In the 1950s, their population was reduced with the use of DDT. Because of that insecticide’s serious health consequences, in the 1970s it was no longer an option.
“Those that survived had some resistance,” Trott explained. “The populations have built and grown. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
Bedbugs are hard to identify because they are similar to other small insects, and their appearance can change depending on how old they are and if they have recently dined on human blood.
A hungry bug is small – one-fourth to three-eighths of an inch long – flat, oval shaped, brownish in color. Once it has eaten, it becomes bigger, more reddish, and round and long in shape. Adult bedbugs are about the size of an apple seed.
They are so common among travelers and in hotels because they don’t travel directly on a person, but on their clothing or personal belongings.
The little creeps are attracted to carbon dioxide and body heat. They hide in mattresses, box springs, furniture, bedding, wallpaper, suitcases, baseboards, behind pictures and headboards. Like microscopic vampires, there they wait until nighttime. When they know their unsuspecting victims are sleeping, they emerge for their next helping of human blood.
If attacked, about 50 percent of victims react to the bite, resulting in itching, welts, and even blisters. They bite anywhere on the body.
But it’s not just the physical discomfort that is alarming.
“If you have bedbugs, people treat you like you have the plague, like you’re a leper.” Trott said. “People have been devastated by this. It’s more than just a bug infestation, it can affect everything in your life.”
Trott spoke of victims who have had to spend thousands of dollars on exterminators, and new furniture, carpet and bedding. People who are afflicted with the sneaky critters don’t get invited to others’ homes and no one wants to visit them.
“The monetary and psychological devastation is heartbreaking,” she said.
Most of that comes from the misconception that people with bedbugs are dirty.
“People who have bedbugs are not dirty,” she stressed. “Bedbugs don’t discriminate. As long as you have blood, it doesn’t matter.”
Bedbugs can be seen, so Trott emphasizes the importance of surveying every crack and crevice for the critters before staying in a hotel – around the edges of mattresses, behind bedboards, in dressers, etc. Sometimes spots of blood can be detected, indicating their presence. Empty shells of dead bugs can be found, along with fecal spots in areas near their feeding site or hiding places.
If bedbugs are detected, Trott urges victims to call an exterminator immediately. And don’t count on just one treatment. In conjunction with professional treatment, an infested room can be heated to more than 135 degrees for a minimum of four hours. In winter, a room can be exposed to extreme cold for several hours.
In the case of bedbugs though, the best cure is prevention. Trott can’t stress enough the importance of being on the lookout for these creepy crawlers to ensure that you will sleep tight without letting the bedbugs bite.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on bedbugs, visit the website www.bedbugs.umn.edu or call Robin Trott, Douglas County Extension educator, at (320) 762-3890.
HOW TO PREVENT BEDBUGS
Tips for preventing bedbugs:
—Don’t bring home furniture, mattresses, box springs or bed frames.
—Check all used or rented furniture for bedbugs.
—Check for bedbugs in your hotel room – bedding and furniture.
—Keep suitcases off the floor and bed and check them when you leave.
—Seal cracks in your home with caulk.
—If you think you have had contact, immediately wash and dry clothes on the hottest setting, or store them in sealed plastic bags until you can. Shoes, bags and other objects can be put in the dryer for 20 minutes at the hottest temperature the material can tolerate.
Some items can be frozen, such as suitcases or non-washable items.
—Don’t store things under a bed.