With the summer travel season fast approaching, Bug of the Week turns its attention to one of the most successful travelers on the planet, the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius. During the depression, bed bugs were commonplace in homes, apartments, and boarding houses in this country. With the advent of insecticides such as DDT after the Second World War, the incidence of indoor pests such as bed bugs was greatly reduced in this country and abroad. However, in recent years, there has been a marked increase in reports of bed bugs in homes, apartments, college dormitories, hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, and motels. Experts explain the upswing.
First, pesticides with long periods of residual activity have fallen out of favor. There has been a shift away from broadcast applications of insecticides to site-specific treatments using baits and traps, so less insecticide is applied. This is good. However, bedbugs hide in protected locations during the day and seek blood at night. They do not encounter insecticides in baits and traps – no exposure, no kill. Second, an increase in international travel to regions of the world where bed bugs are prevalent provides an opportunity for these clever stowaways to enter this country. It is not just hotels and motels where you encounter bed bugs. Reports of bed bugs come from travelers on cruise ships, trains, and motor homes. Bed bugs readily hide in clothing and suitcases due to their small size and cryptic habits. They travel right along with globetrotters and can come home with you.
How can you avoid bringing home these hitchhikers? Tips I have gleaned from bed bug experts Pinto, Cooper, and Kraft and a few others are as follows. Use “old school” hard case luggage rather than soft-sided luggage. Soft-sided bags provide more places like seams for bed bugs to hide. When you arrive at a room, perform a quick inspection before you unpack. Check the sheets, mattress seams, and gap between the headboard and wall for traces of blood spots and bed bugs. Use the luggage stand in the room rather than tossing your suitcase on the floor, bed, or in the closet. Keep cloths both soiled and clean in tightly sealed plastic bags. When not in use, keep your luggage closed with all zippers and pockets sealed. Carefully inspect all luggage for bed bugs before you check out. Get busy when you arrive home and separate clothing from dry-cleaning. Launder soiled cloths on the hot water setting and dry them on the high heat setting for at least one half hour. Bag cloths slated for dry-cleaning and deposit them with the cleaner as soon as possible. Place any unsoiled cloths that are not heat sensitive in the drier on high heat for one half hour. Check out all other items that traveled such as shaving kits or hair driers and store them in plastic bags until the next trip. Store the luggage itself in large sealed plastic bags just in case you missed a bugger or two. While bed bugs can live for more than a year without a meal at certain temperatures, most of mine die without blood after about a month at room temperature. If you suspect that you have brought bed bugs home with you, do not wait; call a professional pest control expert right away. Infestations are much easier to treat in an early stage, rather than when these prolific bloodsuckers have moved in for a while. With a few precautions, you can greatly reduce the chances of bringing home these unwanted vagabonds. If you should encounter these rascals, take some solace in the knowledge that they are not known to carry any human diseases. Safe journeys!
Special thanks to Robin Todd and my good friends at Insect Control and Research, Inc. for providing bed bugs for this bug of the week. The remarkable reference “The Bed Bug Handbook” was a resource for this Bug of the Week. For more information on bed bugs, please visit the previous episode Bed Bug of the Week (BROKEN LINK, FIND OUT WHERE THE PREVIOUS EPISODE IS)or visit the following web sites.