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Bedbugs have jumped the shark

Posted: January 4th, 2011 | Author: | | Tags: , | No Comments »

I just received the January-February issue of Money, and I have no business receiving this magazine. What can I say, I like to laugh at the anecdotes about people with inappropriate asset allocations. On page 56, they have an article titled “5 Things You Need to Know About The Price of Bedbugs.”

1. “Smart defense is worth the price.”

Yadda yadda, bedbugs in movie theaters, hotels, gyms. Wait, gyms? Bedbugs in the steam room is a new one on us. With possible sexy results. But anyway, you will get bedbugs; certain doom. They suggest ClimbUp Interceptors and mattress and box spring covers for prevention. Mind you, ClimbUp Interceptors aren’t going to do a world of good if you come home from vacation and plop a bedbug infested suitcase right on your bed. They didn’t mention that bit, but I let you have it for free.

2. “Spotting Bugs Early Can Pay Off.”

They point out that you can save $200-300 on the cost of a trained bedbug sniffer dog inspection by just using your eyes. Imagine that, you can actually see bedbug signs, and you should check around your bed. Considering I spent time under a hotel bed with a flash light last week, this is not news to me, but I suppose it might be to some people. So get with the program: eyes before paranoia. If you can’t see anything, and you’re not being bitten, chances are you don’t need a dog. Put that money you would have spent on an inspection in a high-yield (haha!) savings account instead.

3. “Debugging is no DIY Project.”

Plenty of internet dwellers would beg to differ, but they make the point that if you don’t start off right, you merely prolong your agony and eventually you will need a pro for an even worse infestation. Then they gamely offer tips on how not to start off right: “You can try to battle bugs yourself by washing infested items or spot-treating them with a hot blow dryer or steam cleaner.”  Yes, that does sound rather unspecific and incomplete. The spot-treating with a blow dryer is a new one on me. Here, hold still, bedbug, I’m going to murtalize you!

4. “Some Pros Like it Hot. Others Go Cold.”

More possible sexy results! We’re not the only ones who can pun around here, I see. They suggest that a professional fix can range in cost from $400 to up to $2,000 for a 2,000-square-foot home. This is the only real info on the actual price of battling bedbugs, as alluded to by the article title. They mention that standard treatments may include heating or freezing or pesticide application. Apparently heat treatment is 20-30% more expensive due to the equipment involved. Clearly they have never heard of the bedbug Christmas Lights Killer.

5. “You’ll Get Little Help With the Cleanup Bill.”

This bit is sadly true. Most homeowners insurance policies will give you nada, as things like pests and mold remediation are considered to fall under maintenance. Some cities, including Boston, New York, and San Francisco, require landlords to pay for extermination, but we’ve all heard stories where this just hasn’t happened.

Then, possibly the most hilarious sentence in the entire article: “If you bring bedbugs home from the office, your boss should let you take time off to remedy the situation; some may pick up the tab.” A real example, please? Is this the kind of thing that goes on a Goldman Sachs?

Update: oh, the holiday horror

Posted: December 28th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I am sure you are all wondering with baited breath to find out if I got bedbugs from our hotel! I am happy to report that I saw nary a sign of those little suckers. But I did get double charged! We can’t have nice things, obviously. If they don’t reverse the second charge, then I guess I’m going to have to find a bedbug and drop it off for a walkabout.

It really could be an eye-opening experience peeling back the sheets on a hotel bed, but I am happy to say these mattresses were pristine, as were the areas around the beds. Is it ever conceivable that you might spot a mattress that was stained from a past infestation but since heat treated and bedbug free? Is the only acceptable option for a hotel to destroy any mattress that has been implicated in an infestation? I am curious. We shlubs at home can’t always afford to toss a mattress, but a hotel should have a budget for total replacement, no? I would think there should at least be an encasement on the mattress, for added protection.

If you found an encasement on a hotel bed, would you demand another room just to be on the safe side, or would you assume they were aware of the problem and had it under control?

Oh, the holiday horror

Posted: December 23rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

It was bound to happen: I have to stay in a hotel tonight. In a moderately cruddy small town where the Hampton Inn is the premier choice. Yes, bedbugs can lurk at any level of finery, and they do get to go some pretty fancy places, but as a rule I get a little hinky when a luxury brand isn’t available. This trip to the frozen tundra of Maine is not my idea of a good time, and if I return with bedbugs, I’ll be even more irate.

I just instructed my husband that NOTHING is to be set on the bed or floor until I have conducted a thorough white glove inspection. Luggage and the child will be placed on the luggage rack or in the tub. Coats will be hung in the closet. Outlaws will be hanged.

I will strip back the sheets and check the mattress for spots, streaks, bedbug casings, dead bedbugs, or heaven forfend, live bedbugs. Hotel bedspreads are some of the most disgusting pieces of fabric on Earth, so you bet I’ll be removing that as a matter of principle. I may skip the luminol check since it’s Christmas. Peace on earth and glorious ignorance to blood spatter from dead hookers and all.

I’ll also be poking around the night stands and baseboards and under the bed with a flashlight. If I find anything, we will march to the lobby and demand to be moved to another room. I’ll take photos first, because it’s always nice to threaten to put things on Trip Advisor if anyone sasses me with his mouth hole about getting a new room or a refund. I like to plan ahead. I’m not above picking up a sample with packing tape and sealing it in a Ziploc either. And of course if I can snag a live bug, we can finally start our Nix Bedbugs Science Research Colony.

I’ve also disabused my husband of the notion that all we have to do to prevent bringing home bedbugs is to leave the bags in the car in the cold for a day or two. The suitcases are getting bagged, and everything’s going straight into the washer when we get home. And the suitcase will get vacuumed within an inch of its life. If I actually found bedbug signs in the hotel room, I might spring for a PackTite just to be on the safe side. If you follow that link, be sure to use coupon code PT1217 at checkout to get $10 off PackTite Heaters through 12/31/10.

Have a safe and bedbug free holiday, everyone! What do you think the bedbugs will say when the animals talk at midnight on Christmas Eve? I imagine them using rather rough language.

‘Tis the Season for Murder

Posted: December 19th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sweet, sweet bedbug murder, that is. Ingenious Instructables.com contributor marcgr brings us the project Kill bedbugs with your Christmas lights. And to think we’ve just been using Christmas lights to spell rude words in the yard.

We all know that the holidays yield opportunities for unpleasant little gifts like fruitcake and travel-related bedbug infestation. Marcgr was inspired to create a bedbug death chamber for luggage after his own brush with bedbugs during business travel. His first project, Kill Bedbugs in Your Luggage, is a DIY version of the PackTite, but he was looking to simplify the amount of wiring required.

Why Christmas lights? I needed a heat source that could put out between 350-400 Watts of evenly distributed heat. Hotplates and hairdryers put out too much heat; and things like room heaters don’t have thermostats that go up to 125F. Christmas lights are perfect for the job!

Your goal is simple: heat your luggage or other awkwardly sized item to 125 F, sit back, and imagine the tiny screams of any bedbugs latched onto the seams and crevices of your luggage.

You’ll need a large metal trash can, Christmas lights, thermometers, a Christmas light timer, and various other simple electrical implements, as detailed here. Bear in mind you are using electricity and repurposing the lights for a situation the manufacturers did not intend, and you should read all steps carefully and proceed at your own risk if you want to try this, at least dialing the 9 and the 1 on your phone. Our money is on the regular PackTite, but this is certainly a novel seasonal alternative.

Hat tip for the link to my dad, who apparently still holds a grudge against bedbugs.

Bedbug & Beyond

Posted: December 4th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Well, it was bound to happen. For all your holiday giving needs, Bed Bath & Beyond is featuring a “Bedbug Protection” badge on their home page. It links to their bedbug protectors section.

Most of the products are typically accepted as handy and dandy, like mattress encasements and pillow encasements (although some experts note these are not specifically necessary since bedbugs tend not to congregate in areas that get squished and squashed about). They offer some detection products, including the ClimbUp Insect Interceptor. They also offer a number of sprays, which we have not evaluated. Let’s just say we approach such things with a dose of skepticism, especially the magic travel sprays.

They’re offering Space Bags and BugZip luggage encasements. But what really piqued our interest was this: the Allergy Luxe Bed Bug Storage Bag. It’s nice to know that when we finally get our scientific bedbug colony, our little darlings will have a swanky home! At last, a place to store your bedbugs! Isn’t that what we all really need? Stop using your beds; that is so 2000 and late. If only Prada would throw a hat in the ring and create one.

Thanks to alert reader LBC for the tip!

I’d Like to Thank the Bedbug Academy

Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

There’s a cottage industry in the laborious and often tedious tasks of preparing an apartment or home for extermination, and like many temporary jobs, actors are swelling the ranks, according to this WSJ.com article.

Bed Bug Busters NY offers extermination prep services, and the owner, Janet Friedman, is a former Broadway stage manager who favors hiring actors for their personalities and quick thinking abilities, as well as ability to perform under pressure.

The actors performing the work don’t mind it, as it gives them a chance to see many different home interiors and observe human behavior first hand. “Everybody has some really cool tics—voices, things that they have, things that they do,” says a 25-year-old actress from Chicago. She also points out that it is sometimes necessary to fake it for a role: pretend even the direst contaminated hoarding situation is normal, for the benefit of the homeowner.

The work may include anything from de-cluttering, vacuuming, cleaning, washing, sealing, and moving furniture. It’s also flexible work that pays about $30 per hour, which beats filing with a bedbug-encrusted stick. Sign us up!

The article gives the impression that bedbugs cannot be easily conquered without professional help, which is not entirely true, but it’s nice to know that services like this exist. If you have $1000 to spare for a day of help attacking your problem, this is a boon.

Thanks to alert reader A.W. for the tip.

Link Rodeo 11/13/2010

Posted: November 13th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Dogs are able bedbug busters, but only when backed by humans, via The Vancouver Sun
There goes my theory that I should just buy a trained beagle as a house pet. It turns out you need as astute handler to perform visual inspections in order to confirm any infestation. Some dogs may be “inventing” bedbugs in order to gain a reward such as a treat. That would be just my luck; I’d end up assuming I’m drowning in bedbugs when Sparky just wants some Snausages. As always, it seems our eyes are one of our best lines of defense in the bedbug battle, although dogs do have uncanny abilities to sniff out the little pests. According to the article, it can sometimes be tricky to confirm visually if the dog hits along a baseboard or wall. It’s certainly possible for bedbugs to live in out of the way places like those. And most handlers swear that their training protocols are impeccable.

From Blackfoot to Boise, Idaho bit by bedbugs, via NECN

I thought Boston was always busy spending time trying to prove it’s as good as New York, but apparently Idaho has gotten in on the action. Is travel to blame in bringing bedbugs home to Idaho? That’s one theory proposed in the article, which reports that local pest control companies are seeing a 400 to 500% increase in bedbug-related calls.

Does Pestilence Threaten Our Portfolios?, via Fool.com

Are bedbugs a boon for pesticide manufacturer and all around 800-pound gorilla Monsanto (MON) and Orkin, a unit of Rollins (ROL)? This article points out that about $258 million may have been spent last year on bedbugs, but sadly, no direct proof of a boost to the bottom line for these companies is provided. The money must be floating around too wildly, like in one of those hurricane machines at the mall.

And while some companies may benefit, others clearly stand to lose, such as those in the hospitality industry. This post mentions Alison Trainer’s lawsuit against Hilton in 2007 for about the 746,319th time that the internet has helpfully cited the case while providing no update on the outcome. We’re going to have to look into that one. Did Hilton really have to shell out the $6 mill? Was it settled? Dropped?  I am left positive that I should apply for a job with Fool.com, if no actual reporting is required. I can do that!

School district finds bedbugs (Anchorage, Alaska), via KTUU.com

More with the bridge and tunnel action! First Idaho, now Alaska? Is there no place in America that’s safe? Have they fashioned little rafts and headed for Guam and Puerto Rico yet? The Anchorage school system is using heat treatment on the affected schools after a handful of students have been complaining of bedbug bites since the start of the school year.

The article also helpfully suggests checking beds for “specks” and hanging clothing far away from the bed in hotels (since closets are normally right above beds, eh?). Frankly, we think our advice on hotels and visual inspections is a little better.

Psychological Reappraisal of Bedbugs

Posted: November 12th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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So You Want to Be an Entomologist

Posted: November 9th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

We at Nix Bedbugs often try to spot the latest trend, fancying ourselves the Faith Popcorn of the pest world. Eventually bedbugs are sure to beat a retreat, but what will be America’s Next Top Pestilence? Carpet beetles? The stink bug? The Asian long-horned beetle? Relatives in town for Thanksgiving?

Well, search us. If we had any formal training, perhaps we’d have more of an edge. So we naturally thought “Huh, perhaps all three of us should become entomologists? How hard can it be?” After all, now that everyone on Earth is in a bedbug panic, we’ve all seen the news clips of unflappable science sorts, like our hero Lou Sorkin. One wants to calmly address the camera and perhaps even allow a bedbug a charity nibble here and there. One wants badly to own a bedbug colony for research purposes.

How does one get a start in entomology? It turns out this is not something you can pick from an online course at DeVry, much to our disappointment. Skills required include math and statistics, writing, chemistry, and biology. Typically someone might get a bachelor of science degree in Zoology or a related biological science field. Here’s a list of colleges and universities offering undergraduate entomology programs, and here you will find examples of the types of courses found in an entomology program.

Graduate course work is required, with most professionals holding at least a masters degree. A Ph.D is often a requisite for doing academic research at one of the top universities.

However, there is always room for amateur entomologists, reassures the Amateur Entomologist’s Society. Hook us up with a bedbug colony, then! We are chomping at the bit to take “Alien Empire: Bizarre Biology of Bugs” from Cornell.

You Know You Hate Bedbugs When…

Posted: November 6th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

You almost barf after chopping an apple seed in half while slicing up your snack.

Here’s a nifty (or not so nifty, really) visual of the much beloved bedbug vs. apple seed comparison.