Bedbugs – A Growing Problem

Abercrombie and Fitch had to close a second store recently due to an infestation of bedbugs. New York City put them in touch with the Health Department after they asked for help and pledged their cooperation, but basically they’re on their own, says the City. In fact, we’re all on our own when it comes to these annoying and oftentimes debilitating creatures.
It wasn’t always that way. DDT, a very effective pesticide, was able to effectively get rid of them, but because of presumed environmentally toxic side effects, its use was discontinued. These reddish, oval, brown and flat seedlike insects (red because they are engorged with your blood) like to inhabit cracks and crevices in your beds, headboards, walls, floors, bed springs and frames. They also like curtains, upholstered chairs, cracks in furniture, the corners inside dresser drawers, and mattresses. Hotels and hospitals are two easy places to pick them up anywhere where there is a high turnover of “guests”. Their bite is painless, but they itch and when you scratch them they can become infected. Symptoms of their bite are small flat or raised bumps on your skin with swelling and redness. These bites are often sequential, and are referred to by doctors as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fortunately, it’s not confirmed that they carry infectious microbes, but they may be a vector for other diseases, like Chagas disease.
Once you confirm their presence, either by sighting the bugs themselves, or their eggs, or fecal stains and skin casts, a professional is needed to eliminate them. Sprays, dusts, and aerosol insecticides are required, and you may have to discard your mattresses and beds. Deep cleaning with a scrub brush to get at eggs, and filling in cracks on walls and moldings and power vacuuming can all help. Ironically, cockroaches eat them, but biological resorts of this sort are unlikely to be explored. On the other hand, diatomaceous earth has been shown to be somewhat effective, in that it abrades the waxy cuticle that coats the exoskeleton of the insect and it dies of dehydration in a few days. The best solution, however, is to avoid the problem to begin with. Do not accept hand-me-down beds or mattresses, and when you go to a hotel, look for the telltale signs of an infestation before you get into the bed. The old admonition, “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” remains a worthwhile and still apt bedtime good night to your loved ones.