Thursday, January 20, 2011

They're heeeeere

Unless you never avail yourself of any type of news media, you might be unaware of the resurgence of bedbugs. Otherwise, you know the little critters are flourishing worldwide.

Denver has been particularly hard hit. Although bed bugs don't spread disease, they are still significantly unpleasant. The thought of an insect dining on you while sleep is creepy.

There are some things to know about bedbugs:

  • They do not discriminate based on economic status, gender, nationality, age, or attention to housekeeping. They are equal-opportunity pests, and you can pick them up almost anywhere.
  • You should not assume, if facing a bedbug invasion, that you picked them up in someone's home.
  • Unlike roaches, you don't get bedbugs because your house is dirty or you visited someplace that appeared to be unsanitary.
  • Bedbugs do not cause or spread illness.
  • If you are a renter, your landlord cannot hold you responsible for an infestation.
  • There are common-sense precautions you can take to avoid an infestation, but suffering an infestation can happen to anyone.

Bedbugs are travelers. They generally hitch a ride on furniture, clothing, and on international flights. They particularly like to snuggle into the seams of soft-side luggage in hotels and in the cargo hold of airplanes. they also enjoy the warm dark of movie theaters, and lately have been showing up in hospitals, schools, and clothing stores.

Many of the apartment complexes where refugees live have or previously had a bedbug issue. Part of this starts with international travel, but the problem persists because residents haul infested furniture out of the trash. They also don't necessarily report a problem when it happens.

Imagine you lived your entire life in a bamboo hut in the jungle. Having insects cohabitate your living space isn't just a reality--it's inevitable. For someone who has always experienced this as normal, having insects in your Denver apartment isn't going to make you raise an eyebrow. Think about it. In an article in the Denver Post, one exterminator said, "Americans think it's our birthright to live free of vermin," Miller said. "Get over it." In most parts of the world, bugs are just a fact of life, and soon that will be the case here.

So, what can you do to minimize your risk of an infestation?

  • Be aware of the symptoms, from bites to dark spots on upholstered furniture.
  • Don't take your coat with you when you go inside of your student's home. In fact, take only hard-surface items that you can keep in the trunk of your car (I take in only a plastic folder, a book, and a plastic pencil case).
  • Brush off your clothes before getting back in the car or going into your own house.
  • Leave your shoes outside overnight.
  • If you buy anything at a thrift shop, leave it outside in the sun so bedbugs will be coaxed out into the warmth. Then, run everything through a hot cycle in the dryer.
  • If you travel, never put your suitcase on the bed and don't unpack or use hotel drawers. Also, bring a large plastic trash bag to cover your suitcase with when you're staying in a hotel.
  • Don't forget to check the mattress seams for signs of infestation.
  • If you do get bedbugs in your home, you must be diligent about cleaning out the house, bagging and washing everything made of fabric, and employing the services of a good, ethical, and knowledgeable exterminator.

Most people are unaware that prior to the 1950s, bedbugs ran rampant. The introduction of the highly toxic pesticide DDT all but stopped widespread bedbug infestations. Once DDT was banned worldwide, bedbugs were ready for their resurgence. New evidence shows that like cockroaches, bedbugs are genetically adapting to the modern world and have become all but invincible in the face of other pesticides.

Heat and cold are your friends. So far, bedbugs cannot withstand exposure to extreme heat or extreme cold. In a state that often has mild temperatures, this isn't the ideal solution, but any bedbugs clinging to items left in your closed-up car on hot, sunny day will not survive the experience. Likewise, in winter, leave suspect items outside overnight when temperatures are below freezing.

To learn more about the current state of bedbugs in our nation and around the world, please refer to these articles:

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