• Bed bugs

    A public service post. Mostly it’s for me and my friends/family, a one-stop shopping for quick bed bug info.

    If you haven’t heard, bed bugs are making a comeback. Before WW II they were common. Then they were largely eradicated in the U.S. by the use of DDT. Now they’re showing up lots of places, including hotel rooms. Since I’m about to do some traveling, I thought I should learn how to spot a bed bug problem. The last thing I want to do is pick up bed bugs in a hotel room and bring them back to my house.

    I listened recently to Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with Michael Potter, a bed bug expert. Here’s how he checks a hotel room for bed bugs:

    First thing I do before I unpack is I remove the bed sheets and the blankets and I examine the upper and lower seams of the mattress at the two corners by the pillow area and along the seam that runs along the headboard. The reason I look there first is because bedbugs tend to be drawn to heat and carbon dioxide as a person sleeps so if they’re on the mattress, you’re more likely to see them in that location. … If I can see the upper seam of the box spring, I’ll take a look at that as well, looking for the little brown bugs themselves as well as the black speckling which are the droppings of the bedbugs.

    If he finds evidence of bed bugs, he gets another room (infestations tend to be local, many rooms can be fine even if one is not). Even still, he’s very cautious:

    It is probable that if you have a very low-level infestation of bed bugs in that hotel room, you will not see them. … I tend to use what I need and zip up my suitcase. I tend to leave my suitcase on as hard of a surface as I can find like a tabletop or credenza or on a luggage rack rather than laying it on the floor instead of on the other bed.

    The MSNBC site has a step-by-step list of how to search for bed bugs. They pretty much echo what Potter said:

    Peel back the bedsheets and check the mattress, running your fingers along the upper and lower seams. Make sure to check the mattress tag, bed bugs often hide there.

    Experts recommend removing and examining the headboard if possible. Check for tiny black spots (excrement) that are smaller than poppy seeds. You may also see translucent light brown skins or, in the case of an infestation— live bugs. [Note to self: bring a flashlight to peek behind the headboard if removal is impossible.]

    Check the bedside table. Look for signs of bed bugs in the drawers and along the wall on the side of the bed that is less likely to be disturbed by cleaning staff and guests.

    You may want to elevate suitcases and keep them off the floor, like on a luggage stand. […]

    If bed bugs are detected, travelers should request for another room. […]

    When you pack to leave, inspect your luggage carefully first, and inspect every item as you pack to help detect any bugs or their signs. Laundering most cloth items with typical hot water and detergent followed by drying on low heat for at least 20 minutes (or standard dry cleaning) should kill all bed bugs in or on such items. Sealing freshly-laundered items inside a plastic bag should help keep any more bed bugs from getting in those items later to hide (and be carried back with you).

    Just so I (and you) know what to look for, here are some images (way more on Google Images):

    There’s no need to get all worked up about this. Just take a few minutes to check your hotel room or any other room (got or rent a vacation home used by many people? Check it!). If you suspect a problem, do something about it. You don’t want to risk bringing the bugs home. De-bugging your home is something you want to avoid. It’s not that easy and it’s costly and disruptive.

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    • “There’s no need to get all worked up about this. Just take a few minutes to check your hotel room or any other room (got or rent a vacation home used by many people? Check it!). If you suspect a problem, do something about it. You don’t want to risk bringing the bugs home. De-bugging your home is something you want to avoid. It’s not that easy and it’s costly and disruptive”

      Agreed, and remind people that bedbugs don’t generally transmit human pathogens, so this is really a comfort/general hygeine/gross-out issue for most people, not a serious health threat. For reference see, e.g.:

      http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/301/13/1358

    • I have to tell you, my dear brother-in-law… Just thinking about it gets me all worked up!!! YUCK!

    • This is the key passage above:

      It is probable that if you have a very low-level infestation of bed bugs in that hotel room, you will not see them.

      I lived in Queens (Ground Zero for bed bug infestations) for two years in two different apartments and got bed bugs on four separate occasions. The problem is that bugs will often hide in the baseboards and can travel in the walls between apartments, which makes them exceptionally difficult to fully exterminate. Also, they can live for months between feedings making it difficult to ensure that all of them are dead.

      Because the bugs did not live in my mattress or on my belongings, my apartment did not have any of the tell-tale signs of a bed bug infestation (something I suspect is the case in many hotels with a bed bug problem — if the infestation was obvious, the hotel would exterminate them before allowing guests to occupy the room). Instead, I would wake up and find a fresh set of bites on my neck, waist, or arms, and then begin a painstaking search in my bed room over the next couple of days looking for a live bug to prove to my landlord that they had returned. If you get to the point where you actually find droppings or live bugs on your mattress, then the infestation has progressed to the point where you are probably covered with welts every morning anyway.

      Which leads me to my next point: a bed bug infestation is an extremely time-consuming, stressful, and expensive problem. While it is true that they don’t spread disease, they do leave dozens of large, exceptionally itchy (and sometimes painful) welts all over your body. The bites can be difficult to hide and (given the public’s misconceptions about how you get bed bugs) even harder to explain. It is not the type of pest that you can just choose to ignore. Getting rid of them is no easy feat. To properly exterminate them you must vacuum every room and many items (including books, boxes, couches, etc.) in your apartment/house, pack up all loose items in plastic bags, wash EVERY item of clothing and bedding (and place in plastic bags), and leave your apartment/house in this condition for up to two months as an exterminator applies up to three chemical treatments in three week intervals. The exterminators in Queens have this down to a science, but even with their expertise there is no guarantee of success. Even after enduring this unsettling and anxiety-filled process, the bugs can easily climb down the walls or emerge from a nook that went untreated and re-infest your apartment/house the next week (or you could sit on the wrong bench in the subway, try on the wrong shirt in the mall, or countless other innocuous activities that can lead to bringing one of the bugs back to your home).

      This is a bit doom and gloom, but I lived through it for a year and a half and had a number of friends who did as well, and I can tell you that it is an absolutely nightmare. Definitely check your hotel room for signs of an infestation, but don’t let that lull you into thinking that you are safe.

    • bed bugs are truly aweful creatures. i work for a rent to own company and bed bugs seem to be becoming a daily nightmare for us.
      they can squize them selves into nearly anything being as that they are paper thin. killing these creatures is almost impossible as well. they can live 18 months with no food. survive tempatures of 120 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes on average. also can survive tempatures of -17 for about two weeks.
      most people say that you can kill them with different sprays and powders. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!
      The only thing provin to kill bed bugs is a chemical called,
      ” STARI-FAB ” pronounced (stair-oh-fab)
      This chemical is terribly expensive, running close to 100 dollars for a half gallon. Which is barely enough to treat a 12′ x 12′ room if you properly dilute it, an DON’T attempt to treat any furniture.
      aside from chemical treatment. the only thing known to work is baking your home. costing close to 6,000 dollars. this can be done by well know exterminators such as orkin. they come to your home build a bubble around it filling every room, hallway, and closet with propane heaters bringing the internal tempature to aroung 140 degrees, and keep it there for around 2 hours. this being highly effective still cannot gaurentee total extermination.
      the best soution i can recomand is baking everything you can fit in your dryer or oven. at around 120 degrees for 30 minutes. some companies offer kilms to bake bedding and furniture. but charge by piece and hour. its more cost efficiant to buy everything new then to try and salvage it.

    • ewww ew ew ew ew ew tell me that they arent common in normal houses???? first stinkbugs now these?!?!?!?! :O

    • You could certainly actually protect your bed with zippered vinyl covers.
      Consequently, a non-residual and non-toxic spray, as spray bed bugs treatment, which can be use to
      delicacy the mattress, box spring and any close furniture lying around
      the bed would be ideal. You always wished you could have
      a tick barrier, a flea barrier or a bed bug barrier.