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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.

Weekly Link Rodeo, 10/19/10

Posted: October 19th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

OK, so the rodeo is a little late this week. I normally like to cram it in over a hangover on the weekend. But I had obligations and shenanigans, see. Like a migrating loon, I was traveling to my ancestral home, a few hundred miles away. Of course I checked all the beds and the staff of JetBlue for bedbugs. They don’t like that, it turns out. They also don’t like that lady who clapped and said “YAY!” when informed the coffee was really Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

Anyway, after my dad stopped laughing at my internet farming enterprises, he told me that he had bedbugs in the 1930s, as a tender child, in his apartment in Park Slope! So the song remains the same, Brooklynites. I offered him the chance to write up the tale of that experience in exchange for absolutely no money, but he didn’t jump on that one for some reason. If you want to hear the story, stomp and hold your breath in the comments, and maybe we’ll reach consensus.


NH School cancels field trip for bedbugs at camp [via NECN.com]

I think you get the gist here. Those poor bedbugs aren’t going to camp due to some harsh, pencil-necked paperpusher. Oh, you mean the children aren’t going to camp because there were bedbugs at the camp. Well, why didn’t you say so?  Nature’s Classroom at Camp Cody in Freedom turned out to have bedbugs. Discovered by dogs, being treated by some unnamed method.  Nature’s. Classroom. I can’t think of a more authentic way for children to learn, honestly. You’re just going to be dealing with this same problem when you find yourself at 18 and run off to NY, clutching your well-worn Rent DVD. You’re not gonna pay the rent! Except you are, and you’ll pay even if you have bedbugs! Insolent whelp.

Bedbugs found in Maine hospital surgical unit [via NECN.com again]

Just last week, bedbugs were discovered at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston….

It was a patient who first alerted staff to the presence of bedbugs in one of the medical surgical units. The floor remains closed as a precaution until officials are sure the bedbugs are gone.

Wow, New England is hopping, er, crawling these days! Aren’t you glad you live in NY, then, paying your rent? Oh, wait. I can’t imagine which would piss me off more after surgery: wake up with MRSA or frigging BEDBUGS. Can’t they just randomly aim a large laser around and kill them all?

Your Pest Control Operator, Your Ideally Trustworthy Friend

Posted: October 16th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

So you think you have bedbugs, and your first instinct is KIIIIIILLLLLLL.

Sailor at the Naval Air Base wears the new type protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare, Corpus Christi, Texas. These uniforms are lighter than the old type (LOC)

Sailor at the Naval Air Base, 1942, Corpus Christi, Texas. Via Library of Congress.

Now, you definitely identified, the pest, right? If not, do not pass Go, do not spend $200+. OK, you really have bedbugs. Not lingering house guests, not termites.  Well, that sucks, we agree.

Your landlord may already have someone on speed dial, so you may not have a choice as to who you use.  Or you may be going it alone.  You may find references to an exterminator as a pest control operator, or PCO, so do not be confused by the terminology as you search for the best.

If a landlord is involved, make sure you know in advance who will be footing the bill! Sure, bring on the bedbug sniffing elephants and panthers, you might say, until you find out you are on the hook.

Obviously there are large, national services like Orkin. We suggest asking friends and family for referrals to pest control services that they may have used and liked. You could crowdsource and ask the Facebook, although this definitely potentially outs you to a wider audience, so consider this is a solid maybe. Do not choose this method without filtering it down to your most trusted list of friends.

Review sites like Angie’s List may cover your area. There is a small fee for Angie’s List, but we’ve used it successfully and feel it may be a good trade-off.  Often businesses will be reviewed on sites like Yelp or Citysearch as well, but take into account that you are likely to hear the loudest complaints from people with a bone to pick. Don’t be put off by one bad review if the company sounds otherwise solid.

The three interview/estimate rule is a good one for the ages, so stick with that. Research and call at least three places for screening.  Take customer service into account: are you on hold forever, or is the person answering the call rude? Click. You may find yourself in a lengthy relationship with your PCO, depending on the scope of your problem, and you want someone reliable and courteous.

Here is a synopsis of some great tips from UC Davis:

  • Evaluate the types of services the company offers. For example, do they provide monthly spray contracts or do they offer an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that includes nonchemical methods?
  • Find out if least-toxic alternatives are available to control the pest. Ask the company if these least-toxic pesticides or baits are used when appropriate.  How important is using nonchemical methods to you? Make this clear up front if it is.
  • Make sure the company has the required licenses, registration, certificates, and insurance [within your state – your state’s Secretary of State or general portal website should have links to looking up license standing].
  • Ask the company to inspect the site. There may be a small fee, but you will get to meet a company rep, and you should receive confirmation of your infestation and a written estimate and treatment plan, including how long it will take and how many visits may be required. You’ll also want them to tell you safety info in case you have pets or children in your home.

Once you have your three estimates, you’ll want to focus on the services suggested. Some people give a big advantage to a service that has sniffer dogs for maintenance/follow-up. There are other basic questions to consider.  UC Davis suggests:

  • Ask how any pesticides will be applied and where. Chemicals sprayed around the home perimeter may be washed away by irrigation or rain, especially if concrete walkways or other water-repelling materials surround the home. Avoid this type of spraying as it is considered ineffective, costly, and may cause contamination of our waterways or drinking water.
  • Avoid companies that offer only calendar chemical treatments featuring automatic monthly or quarterly perimeter sprays. This may or may not be necessary, as the pest may or may not be present at the time of application, and it is not an integrated or long-term pest management approach.

Any reputable establishment should provide a written contract once you decide to proceed. You should have access to the company’s name, contact information, treatment plan, length of service, total cost and dates when installments are due, and any guarantees about service.

On price: your costs will vary based on where you live and what type of service is being offered. Services like sniffer dogs are significantly higher, but some people swear they are the most thorough option. Ideally, you will end up with three estimates or more, and you will find the prices are all in the same ballpark. A really low estimate can be a red flag, as can a really high one. Be prepared to ask the operator to break down the costs in detail if you feel they are unreasonable. You may feel desperate, but you can keep your cool and stand up for yourself and potentially even negotiate. Be polite!

You should also verify that they hold current general liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance so that you are not liable for anyone being injured in your home. Some condo associations require written proof of these details before you’ll be allowed to begin service.

Once you’ve selected a service, then it’s up to you to follow their instructions to the letter. If anything seems strange or you don’t understand an instruction, ask!

Get a second opinion if you become uncomfortable at any time in the process. Bedbug extermination in particular requires many home precautions, and if you’re going to all the trouble, you want to do it right the first time.
If you make or notice changes in your home environment between treatments, call right away
and let your rep know so the next visit can be productive.

Does Anna Wintour have bedbugs?

Posted: September 22nd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Probably not, for even the littlest creatures of nature can be scolded out of existence or implode within her withering stare.  However, she meets the criteria of many a less formidable person: living in New York City, traveling, and being fond of clothes.  Bedbugs are a horror for anyone who has them, but they are particularly virulent for the clothes-horse.  When I hear of friends bagging up and having all of their clothes cleaned, I feel faint when considering the effort and price tag implied by my ponderous collection that struggles to be contained within two wardrobes, a large closet, and several dressers.

Bedbugs have hit the fashion world, having been found at many retail outlets including Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch (“fashion” does not always mean “good fashion”), Victoria’s Secret and Niketown.  Some, like Bergdorf Goodman, have employed bedbug sniffing beagles as a precaution and preventative measure.  After all, if you wait until you can see them to call the exterminator, then you really have a Problem.  Unlike most hotels, many shops are not doing this, as even the appearance of concern is enough to set tongues wagging, garnering negative press.  The plague house emblem on your door.  Retailers have been tight lipped about any strategies they may or may not have to protect their customers.

We recommend a healthy inspection along the seams of any garment you plan to buy.  Keep your new duds sealed in a bag in the freezer for several days or throw in the dryer (about 10-20 minutes set on medium to high heat ought to do it: you want at least 120°F) before integrating with the rest of your clothes. This goes for shoes and some bags too, and it should be reasonably safe for dry-clean only clothing items as long as they were not wet in the first place.  This is all especially important if you are shopping second-hand.  Avoid “dollar-a-pound” clothing dumps altogether.  It is a new era, and lord knows what could be crawling around in there.