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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Sleep Tight! (AKA: No way will I get bed bugs!)

I’ve had bed bugs on my brain lately. Which is a lot better than on my body I guess! I was writing an article for one of the trade journals I regularly contribute to so I was able to go completely geeky (or is it nerdy?) into a lot of recent scientific research. Of course, I also fell down quite a few rabbit holes and into bed bug Wonderland. Since I tend to stick to scientific journals, research projects, and other well-regarded sources when I’m looking into a problem and solutions, I tend to forget the… let’s call it the less reputable material on the subject. It can be fun too so here’s some myth-busting on bed bugs.

1. Bed bugs are only in “seedy” hotels. My dad used to travel a lot before he retired and I would consistently tell him to make sure to check his room. His response was always “I stay in nice places, they don’t have bed bugs.” The truth is, bed bugs can be found just about anywhere people are. It doesn’t matter if it’s a five-star hotel or a no-star hostel. People coming in from other areas can transfer them in, and the next guest can inadvertently pick them up and take them home. Since the resurgence of bed bugs in the late 1990’s in the US, most hotels have done a nice job of identifying when there is a problem and treating it before it can reach infestation levels and spread. The difference between a high-class resort and a budget motel is often money. A “nicer” place is likely to spend time and money educating staff on what to look for, put preventative tactics into place, and immediately contract with a pest control provider for an effective treatment when necessary. Unfortunately, those guesthouses with smaller budgets don’t have the same resources to invest. Which is why they can have more issues, and bigger issues. No matter where I stay, I ALWAYS do a bed bug check before I get settled in the room.

2. I don’t have/won’t get bed bugs because my hotel/nursing home/office is clean. Bed bugs don’t care about how clean you are. If you are alive and breathing, they aren’t judging. There have been numerous studies on what attracts bed bugs and that’s heat, carbon dioxide, and body odor. No matter how clean you are, no matter how many showers you take, no matter how often you wash your clothes you have body odor. You smell like a person. Since you can pick up bed bugs from anywhere they are infesting (hotels, nursing or assisted living facilities, movie theaters, etc.) they can hitchhike home with you. Once they are there, cleaning soft items like clothes, sheets, towels, and pillows can help to physically remove them from those items, but it doesn’t get to the cracks and crevices where others are hiding. Areas such as the headboard and bed frame, mattress seams, and baseboards are bed bug harborages. Cluttered areas can be much harder to treat successfully due to having many more hiding spots for bed bugs. So keep cleaning, but understand it won’t be a treatment for bed bugs or a prevention method.

3. Bed bugs are nocturnal and only bite at night. You can also add “bed bugs are only on the bed” to this one. Bed bugs are mostly nocturnal because that’s when people are mostly inactive. A person moving around and not around the bed or even in the space isn’t easy to bite. A sleeping person, just laying there for hours, is an easy meal. People are much more sedentary than they were a few hundred years ago so bed bugs won’t just wait until sundown, they will take advantage if they are hungry. This is also why bed bugs are often found in couches and chairs where people spend a lot of time sitting or resting. In nursing homes and assisted living facilities, this is especially true for many residents that spend time in their recliner or wheelchairs.

4. You can DIY treatment with peppermint/clove/lavender/(insert your favorite essential oil here). This is one of my favorites and one I get asked quite a bit. Technically this is true. If you use enough, and literally drown them in it for a few days, you can kill a bed bug. You can do the same thing with water. However, how can you possibly use enough, for long enough, to kill all the bed bugs in a space? Especially when most are hiding in seams and crack and crevices. It’s just not feasible at the amount and the time needed. While we are talking about DIY treatments, store-bought “bug bombs” are also completely ineffective (and sometimes dangerous).

And for more fun, here’s a couple of things that sound crazy, but are in fact true:

- Higher blood alcohol content means less bed bug bites (so drink up before bed?)

- We may be able to give bed bugs STD’s (your Jeopardy phrase for today: traumatic insemination)

- Bed bugs will be more attracted to dirty laundry than clean laundry (why? Because it smells like their food source: people)

- Around 42% of the population has NO reaction to bed bug bites (don’t even get me started on what bites “look like”…it’s a whole separate blog)

- For research, students walk around with plastic beads in their socks to soak up human smells (ah the glamorous life of a grad student)

Feeling itchy yet? Bed bugs are a problem that no one wants to admit when they have, but there are valid and effective treatments. Do you have a good program in place to monitor for bed bugs? Have ongoing issues with bed bugs? Just want to know more? Contact us today!

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