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Bedbugs Again!
Photo: Studiomill
Take the bedbug. These bloodsucking creatures largely disappeared in the United States in the 1940s. In the twenty-first century, the bedbug is back.

Bedbugs are the common name for Cimex lectularius and its cousins in the Cimex genus. Cimex lectularius is parasitic, wingless, nocturnal insects that feeds on human blood. Its preferred habitat is bedding: mattresses, sheets, and blankets where it can hide during the day, with its food source – you – close at hand. It also hides in seat cushions, clothing, and in crevices in furniture and walls.

Your first clue you served as a host for a bedbug banquet is waking up and finding yourself covered by lines of raised itchy welts. The bites are annoying, and trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Bedbugs began their American revival in the 1990s, when new pesticide restrictions appeared.  Also about that time, to reduce their environmental footprint, many hotels ceased daily steam cleaning of bed linens.  Steam cleaning kills bedbugs and lice, but these had not been a problem for fifty years. The 1990s also saw an increased travel from third-world countries. Hitchhiking bedbugs found big-city America a perfect environment and took advantage of the elbow room thoughtfully provided by the new rules.

What can you do?

Don’t want the bedbugs biting? The first step is to keep bedbugs from making your home their home. Start with an active defense while traveling:
  • Examine your hotel room for signs of an infestation. Bedbugs leave tiny rust-colored spots on bedding. Look in bedbug hiding places: between mattress and box-spring, bed frame, and headboard. Check out the other furniture in the room. Bedbugs are normally found within five feet of the bed, but can also infest chairs and sofas.

  • Minimize your chances of infestation. Never place a suitcase on the bed. Put your suitcases on the luggage rack in your hotel room and place the luggage rack as far away from your bed as possible. Store your clothing in your closet, not near your bed.

  • Examine your suitcase and clothing carefully when repacking to return home. Remove any bedbugs found, and if you do find some in your clothing, seal the clothes in a plastic bag.

  • When you get home, immediately put all of your clothing in the dryer, and run it at the highest setting for at least 15 minutes. Heat kills bedbugs.
Be alert at home, too. Wash bed linens regularly and in the hottest water possible. Inspect any second-hand furniture for infestation before bringing it into your house. Reduce clutter to remove potential bedbug hiding places.  

If you live in a multi-family environment, like an apartment, recruit your neighbors in the effort to keep out bedbugs. An infestation in one place will quickly spread throughout a building.

Finally, if you do detect bedbugs, you need to kill them. Bedbugs spread quickly and you cannot wait them out. They can survive 90 days between feedings. Treat with pesticides. If self-treatment fails, call an exterminator.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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