Saturday, August 28, 2010

Courtyard at the Village of Arts and Humanities, Philadelphia

Courtyard at the Village of Arts and Humanities, Philadelphia

[Even if I had a picture of bedbug I’m not sure if I’d put it up. I’m putting up a completely unrelated picture of a cool courtyard in Philadelphia, created by participants in the Village of Arts and Humanities programs, that I took a picture of when I was up there earlier in the month. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but those are rocks inlaid in concrete. It was amazing!]

Okay so like a month ago when I was writing about the other projects I was following I wrote up this little section in my post about bedbugs (in response to the $365/yr person who had recently experienced a bedbug crisis) but I took it out because it seemed extraneous. (And while extraneous information doesn’t usually bother me — anyone who’s ever heard me tell a story can certainly attest to that — I’m generally better when blogging than I am in real life and occasionally manage to edit myself.)

So I edited that out, but since then bedbugs have been in the news on a seemingly daily basis so as a public service, I’m restoring it here as its own post.

For anyone who cares, here is some information about bedbugs…

I have a fabulous book called Common-Sense Pest Control: Least-Toxic Solutions for Your Home, Garden, Pets, and Community and I remember having looked at the bedbug section previously when there was a big hoo-hah in the media about bedbugs, and there are a couple of things to note. The first is that

In the laboratory, the bedbug has been shown to have the capacity to harbor and transmit many human pathogens. But in actual field settings, transmission of pathogens has not been confirmed; consequently, the bedbug is not now regarded as a vector of human disease.

So they’re gross, but they’re probably not going to kill you. Mosquitos, those more familiar bloodsucking friends of ours, might actually be more dangerous. And everyone has just adjusted to getting bitten by them on a regular basis, generally no one freaks out about it.

The second is that bedbugs can’t fly or jump, they can only walk, so moving a bed away from the wall and coating the legs with vaseline, or putting the legs in “containers such as cat-food tins” filled with soapy water will prevent bedbugs that are not yet in the bed from getting there. (If they’re already there, obviously this strategy will simply serve to keep them from leaving. Probably not what you want. So be sure to first vacuum or clean the bed of any bugs by hand before setting up the barriers.)

Alternatively, the legs of the bed can be set into clean glass jars or polished metal cans. The bedbugs’ feet, or tarsi, have claws that are useful in climbing vertical surfaces like paper, plaster or wood, but cannot cling to clean glass or polished metal.

The authors also note that

Infested mattresses and beds should be replaced, steam-cleaned or taken outdoors for treatment with insecticides. Launder or dry-clean sheets and blankets. When transporting infested materials, enclose them in plastic bags to prevent inadvertent introduction of bugs into other areas.

And this I think is the most useful piece of information:

Because bedbugs are very sensitive to heat at all stages of their development, artificially raising the temperature for several days within the room may be helpful as part of an overall strategy to eliminate the pest. The thermal death point for the common bedbug is 111°F to 113°F; temperatures of 97°F to 99°F kill large numbers of the bug. Raising room temperature to these levels by using a high thermostat setting and supplemental heaters for an hour or so would probably eliminate an infestation.

Bedbugs are also killed by prolonged exposure to low temperatures (32°F to 48°F). Eggs die at these temperatures within 30 to 60 days, although adults and nymphs die within hours. Thus closing off an infested bedroom and leaving it unheated in cold weather might also eradicate a bedbug infestation.

So there you have it.

And for anyone who is interested in taking control of their local pest management instead of relying on commercial products or exterminators, this book is a must-have. It covers everything, from weeds to ants and roaches to fleas and ticks and other problems with pets, to community-wide problems like yellow jackets and rats. It’s a really great book.

3 Responses to “Bedbugs”

  1. Bryant Says:

    Thanks rebecca–I like knowing all of that. I just hope that having this information will not mean that i need to use it. Umm–do you know if they bury themselves underneath our skin or just bite us?

  2. sammy Says:

    Actually, I don’t know how simply setting up a barrier would help prevent bedbugs from not getting into your bed as they are hitchhikers – all they do is jump a ride onto you – your clothes, your skin, etc and then they end up on your furniture. That is why barriers are not terribly effective. If you think you have been exposed to them somewhere else, you have to make sure you don’t bring you clothing, etc into your house — strip down and dump it all into a bag and get it washed and put it into a hot dryer. (And no, they don’t bury into your skin. They use clothing and such to hitchhike, and take up residence on furniture and in bedding where you spend time.) Er, my husband is a licensed pest control specialist and spends most of his jobs on bedbug control.

  3. lessisenough Says:

    It seems to me that having a barrier would prevent bedbugs getting into your bed as long as you made sure you didn’t have any on your body or clothing when you got into bed. However if you have a serious infestation in your bedroom and/or house, that may be easier said than done.

    One of the first strategies recommended in the book is to seal up all cracks and crevices where bedbugs can hide, both in the bed itself and adjacent areas (walls, floors, etc.). This will have the added benefit of preventing roach infestations, and also other problems such as ants and mice. Though it should be noted that some ants are bedbug predators:

    Numerous house predators, such as spiders, mites and other bugs (including the reduviids, which are related to the conenose bugs discussed below), will prey on bedbugs, but there are two species of ants in the United States that can totally wipe out bedbug infestations when they find them. These are the pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis) and the Argentine ant (Iridomyrmex humulis). Unfortunately, the prejudice against ants in the house is so great that it seems doubtful that many people would tolerate them long enough for them to eliminate an infestation.

    I’m including that info because I keep trying to convince people to make behavioral changes to reduce ant problems — like don’t leave food out — without doing everything they can think of to try to kill every ant in the vicinity of the house. It’s been an uphill battle.

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