[Hpn] Bed Bugs Man's Blood Sucking Parasitic Problem~ For Rich Or Poor Alike
William Charles Tinker
Sun, 29 Aug 2004 20:45:27 -0400
Sun, Aug. 29, 2004
Sleep tight . . . and hope they don't bite
The pesky critters, once nearly eliminated by pesticides, are hitching rides
into the U.S. from international travelers.
BY JAY ROMANO
They're about one-eighth inch long, reddish brown in color, with oval,
flattened bodies. Though flightless, they skitter quickly over floors, walls
and ceilings. They are world travelers, hitching rides in suitcases and
clothing, and world-class squatters, equally happy in four-star hotel rooms,
homeless shelters and luxury apartments.
They can lay 500 eggs in a lifetime and can wait a year for a meal. By day,
they hide in any available crack or crevice. At night, they emerge to suck
the blood of mammals like us. They are Cimex lectularius -- bedbugs -- and
they could be coming to a crevice near you. ''This is one of the hottest bug
issues in a generation,'' said Dr. Michael F. Potter, a professor of urban
entomology at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture in
Lexington. ``Bedbugs are going ballistic.''
Potter said that while bedbug infestations were common in the United States
before World War II, the widespread use of DDT virtually eliminated them
here. But they remained prevalent elsewhere in the world. Now, as a result
of immigration and increasing international travel, bedbugs are back.
First, the good news: ''Bedbugs have never been shown to be able to transmit
any human diseases,'' he said. Now, the bad news: ``This is a blood-sucking
parasite that feeds on humans. And if they're in your house, they're going
to find you.''
But wait; you're neat, clean, and tidy. How could these repulsive creatures
get into your home?
''You're staying in a hotel room in Europe and you set your suitcase on the
floor,'' he said. ``They crawl into the suitcase, you head back home, and
boom, the next thing you know you're a blood meal in your own bedroom.''
In fact, another way one might bring the bugs home is by picking up
furniture at garage sales, flea markets and even off the curb.
''This is one of the most difficult challenges facing the pest control
industry,'' said Richard Cooper, technical director for Cooper Pest
Solutions in Lawrenceville, N.J. He said that while bedbugs are typically
found where they can attack people, ``they also disperse in an unpredictable
Getting rid of the mattress and box spring doesn't guarantee getting rid of
all the bugs, Cooper said, so he does not automatically recommend
jettisoning the bedding. ''When we work with mattresses and box springs, we
use steam to get a direct kill and a vacuum for physical removal,'' he said.
(It might help to encase the mattress and box spring in hypoallergenic
covers that should keep bugs from getting out or in.)
For other hiding places, Cooper uses ''synthetic pyrethroids'' -- pesticides
that kill bugs on contact and are effective for several weeks. But even
doing that is no panacea, and any pest control company that guarantees total
elimination should be looked on with caution. ''Until three or four years
ago, most pest control experts had never even seen a bedbug,'' he said.
``This is an extremely challenging insect. We're not going to be able to
just waltz in and make this problem go away.''