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Just When You Thought It Was Safe

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

Post-ItSo how do you know when it’s over? Usually when someone dumps you via text message, Facebook status update, or a scribble on a 3M product, you begin to have your suspicions. But nothing’s certain in these bedbug-ridden times. You’ve been spritzing with this and that and bagging and drying and praying, maybe having a fling with a professional, and you’re no longer waking up with bites. Is it safe to start rolling around on the carpet again? To haul your shoe collection out of exile, to stop obsessively putting your cereal bowls on the clothes dryer rack?

Bedbug eggs take 6 to 17 days to hatch, according to Ohio State University. However, they can take up to one month to hatch if the environment is unusually cool. Hotter weather yields a faster hatching time.

The freshly hatched bedbugs are called nymphs, and they can immediately feed. To reach each next step on the 5 molt march to sexual maturity, a bedbug requires a blood meal. But nymphs can live several months without feeding.

So, great, if you manage to avoid getting bitten for more than 17-30 days straight, surely you must be free of the little suckers, right? We’re talking about bedbugs, and if there’s anything we’ve learned, the answer is nearly never as simple as it sounds. In most cases, according to Richard Cooper, entomologist, 3-4 treatments should be enough to contain most infestations, with dramatic reduction in severity after the first treatment. But the exact situation will depend on your type of dwelling and the severity of your initial infestation. Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management program suggest the length of treatment with an IPM strategy will take about 3 weeks, with one week being prep time alone.

Conventional wisdom suggests treating every 10-14 days and not assuming you are in the clear until about two full months after you were bitten last. There is no particular exact science behind the two month suggestion that we can find, but it seems to be quite popular, and we know of no contradictory opinion backed by research. The trick is that some of the bug population will slink off to the hinterlands of your home or even all the way to a neighbor’s place, and they may come marching back at some point after treatment seems complete.

Is being on guard for two months after you last have evidence of infestation overkill? Perhaps, but do you really want to keep sleeping with the enemy? Once you’ve done the time consuming prep work, is it worth jumping the gun only to do it all again? What do “they” say, again? Keep calm and carry on? The only way out is through?



Bespoke Bedbugs

Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Wow. Looks like you can advertise your sexy bedbug-free status wherever you go!

Bedbug Free Sweatshirt

Bedbug Free Hat

Bedbug Free Mug

Bedbug Tie

I don’t know. They are cute, but what would Anna Wintour do?



Weekly Link Rodeo, 10/27/2010: Solipsism Edition

Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

This link rodeo gig was supposed to be a relaxing Saturday kind of thing, but we’ve encountered a little continental drift. I was gone last weekend too, but don’t worry, we never stop thinking about bedbugs! If you found yourself hanging around just gagging for updates, consider interning.

Desperately Seeking Bedbugs [via Nixbedbugs.com, as is everything else in this post]

My girl HJM and I searched Greenpoint high and low, looking for bedbugs. We even donned nurse uniforms to make it more official. We brandished clipboards and looked through magnifying glasses. Well, bedbugs are not swayed by trappings of authority. We checked every stray mattress, couch cushion, and jacket on the side of the street, from Manhattan Ave to the river banks. We found innumerable scraps of refuse and even human excrement, but no bedbugs.

So that was a disappointment. We have an important science project in mind, so we placed a Craigslist ad. While it didn’t get immediately deleted, no one has stepped up to offer us a bedbug either. I guess we’ll keep trying. I think JRN will look up from writing Science Corners and have a heart attack and ban us from visiting when we succeed.

THIS JUST IN, and we have zero confirmation, but I hear all the bedbugs are dressing as Snooki for Halloween.

While I was in Brooklyn, I trod near the ground where my own father experienced bedbugs 70 years ago. This was our most popular entry last week, and I think you will enjoy it, too! Sadly, I didn’t see a bedbug in Park Slope either. Just miles of beards and plaid. It’s like Christo is working in facial hair these days.

We wrote some great real information on freezing bedbugs and the perils of DIY extermination, but we know you’re all just here for the Ke$ha.



Ice, Ice Bedbug

Posted: October 25th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

The weather is getting colder, and people may be getting lulled into a false sense of security by the temperature with regard to their bedbug treatment needs. The other day, I heard someone advise someone else that bringing home used furniture was OK as long as you “put it out on the porch for a few cold days.” Alas, the mighty little bedbug is tougher than that.

Don’t be tempted to rely on cold weather or even your home fridge/freezer to rid yourself of bedbugs or prevent bedbugs unless you are prepared to follow some guidelines. Just how long do you need to freeze something to kill bedbugs, and how cold is cold enough?

Pest control professionals may be using techniques like Cryonite, which is an icy freezing spray created with liquid CO2. The spray temperature is about -110 ºF. The surface of the target will be brought down to about -20 º to -40 ºF, and theoretically, the spray clings long enough to effectively crystallize the water in the pest’s cells and kill it. The advantages to a technique like this are that there is no residue or chemical hazard left behind, and the spray vapor can penetrate into crevices and cracks, like baseboards.

However, you can rest assured that you aren’t about to replicate this technique at home by loading your dustbuster with ice cubes and setting it from suck to blow. You’ll often hear suggestions to “just” throw something in the freezer for a day, and of course anytime there is a “just” in a suggestion, you can begin to guess at its effectiveness.

Bedbugger points out that entomologist Lou Sorkin (who is fast becoming our hero) froze bedbugs for 5 days at -29 ºF. Some first instars (a bedbug moulting stage prior to sexual maturity)  lived after the first 4 hours and took up to 5 days to die. The average home freezer operates at about 0 ºF. If it’s the one attached to your fridge, chances are you are also opening it several times a day, which creates temperature fluctuations.

You can bet that your porch is not going to remain below zero for up to 5 days at a time unless you live in an incredibly punishing climate. Maybe if you can see Russia from your house.

Home cold treatment is certainly better than no treatment at all, but consider leaving any items in the freezer completely undisturbed for up to 2 weeks prior to considering them free and clear. Check your manufacturer’s booklet for details on your particular model. You might consider testing that claim with a thermometer as well. A freezer that is full is more efficient in cooling than one that only contains a few items, so that’s another thing to consider.

It’s possible to buy ultra-low temperature freezers, but of course you have to weigh out whether the cost of something like a separate chest freezer justifies not replacing the item in question. And these freezers take up extra space, which just may not be an option in a city apartment.

And freezing electronics would fall under the “never a good idea” category. We also do not advise freezing household pets and children, which should go without saying, but one never knows. This is the internet.

In short: the data on DIY home freezing is not great. We’d probably gamble on 2 weeks at 0 ºF, undisturbed completely, in a packed freezer if there were no better options. And we wouldn’t take things out of the freezer without leaving them sealed them up tight in plastic bags until we were sure the rest of the infestation in the home were contained. We definitely would not rely on “just” leaving something on a porch or “in the car in winter.”



Everybody Hates Bedbugs

Posted: October 22nd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Via The Onion, Cockroach King Concerned Over Recent Rise of Bedbugs

His Royal Highness, King Leopold Blattodea IV, undisputed lord and ruler of the cockroaches, expressed dismay and concern Monday that the recent rise in bedbug populations could threaten his sovereignty over the realm of human squalor.

“For centuries, the woodwork and drainpipes of the world have been the unassailed domain of we roaches. Exterminators were powerless to stop us. Humans shrieked at the sight of us. But now this meddlesome bedbug has inspired tenfold the terror.”

How must the termites be feeling? The ear whigs, the camel crickets, the ticks and the fleas. It’s true, everyone is Gaga for bedbugs.

Bedbugs rejoined:

“Your petty machinations are useless,” read the message scrawled in human blood. “Soon our numbers will grow so vast that mankind will be too terrified to step into a movie theater, sit on a friend’s sofa, or check out books from the library. Forget not, we can survive without food for up to 18 months! Surrender now and return to the tropical, woody areas that birthed you. The future of the cities is now, my friends. We are the future.”

We are left with lingering questions. What DOES Lady Gaga think of bedbugs? We know Ke$ha was finally appointed their official spokesperson. So there’s that.

Ke$ha



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?



Science Corner: Eastside, Westside, Carbon Dioxide

Posted: October 17th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

By now we all know bedbugs come running for the great taste of people juice, but do you know how our new blood sucking overlords find us in the dark?

In a line so precious I had to lift it straight from one of our source articles, those parasitic little bundles of fun are attracted to us gravy trains by our exhaled “plumes of concentrated carbon dioxide” (PLUMES oh I love you bedbugs).

But JRN, I hear you mumbling between gooey handfuls of drug store mac & cheese, what can I do with this information? Well don’t you worry your pretty little head, that’s what smart people from other countries come to American universities for! True to form, Wan-Tien Tsai and Changlu Wang of Rutgers have taken this fact and created a makeshift bed bug monitoring rig worth a look.

Dry ice; check. 1/3 gallon jug; check. Cat food dish; check. Talcum powder; check. Paper to make itty bitty bedbug ramp (for serious); check.

What do I have to work with?

We're trapped in a bedbug infested bedroom with a fire extinguisher and 18 tampons...but the lease isn't up for MONTHS!

By placing the dry ice in the jug and keeping the spout just slightly open, the small carbon dioxide stream of an exhaling mammal (PLUMES!) may be simulated. This jug is placed atop the overturned cat dish, the inside walls of which have been treated with the talcum powder for extra slipperiness. An adorable ramp is added, half to assist the bedbugs up the side of the dish and half to assist you in narrowing your eyes and cackling away in anticipation of luring dozens of small ignorant creatures to their deaths. Well, capture anyway.

If this detector comes across as a little too…Rube Goldberg for your tastes, consider the cost: a startling $15. Add to that the possibility that this little number may actually outperform professional monitors, and I’m sold.

For complete instructions to the bed bug monitor devised by Wan-Tien Tsai and Changlu Wang, visit the Detecting Bed Bugs Using Bug Monitors page at the Rutgers University website, and download the accompanying 3 page PDF.

For instructions that have nothing to do with bedbugs yet still may prove useful in life or death situations, try this: MacGyver – The Complete First Season



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.



Sand in the Vaseline, yes; Vaseline on your bedbugs?

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

True, disgusting story ahead! When I was a kid, we used to remove ticks by putting a smear of Vaseline or clear nail polish over them while they were embedded in the skin, happily supping. They would almost immediately back out, and we would pick them off and flush ’em, secure in the knowledge that the nasty little heads weren’t left attached to skin. The theory was that the Vaseline or nail polish would suffocate them, giving them no choice but to try to get away. This is probably not recommended by health experts the world over for some reason, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Plus we lived in a nest of ticks.

So we were wondering if it’s possible that a layer of some sort of goop or unguent would play hell with bedbugs too. We may have entertained the idea of people sleeping in a thin coat of Vaseline, protecting and moisturizing. This could end up being a public service! We’re not the only ones with this idea, as there is no original thought left in the world, as per usual.

But, as with all open relationship and bedbug-related matters, it turns out the answer is “It’s Complicated.” Vaseline on the bed legs is a messy endeavor, and while it reportedly does work as a barrier, there is some controversy on isolating the bed, and this may actually prolong your ultimate bedbug infestation. The bedbugs will steer clear of the bed, but you are more likely to get bitten at other times throughout the day. While largely nocturnal bed lovers, bedbugs still never met a Barcalounger they didn’t like if the need to follow the food presents itself. So you avoid bites in bed, which is certainly a noble interest, as who likes being a captive audience, but the bedbugs are likely to disperse beyond the area nearest the bed, so you’re looking at treating a larger area.

Some people swear by traps for the legs of beds, like the Climbup Insect Interceptor Bed Bug Trap, and if you want to use those, it’s important to let the trap functioned as designed and actually trap the bugs. Think about it: would you rather the bedbugs die a hideous death in a little cup of mineral or tea tree oil in one of these traps, or just shrug and retreat to the TV room? If preventing bites is extremely important because of a severe bite allergy, then it might be possible to add the vaseline as a fall-back method on the bed frame if you think the critters are doing something besides marching up from the floor.

Frankly, the Vaseline does nothing to kill the bedbugs and seems exceptionally messy. Imagine trying to use that if you also have pets? If I were going to be spreading something around, I’d be more inclined to try diatomaceous earth, which actually destroys the exoskeletons of insects. There are a lot of different brands, and you can get it in an easy  Diatomaceous Earth Shaker
container.



Luca Brasi sleeps with the bedbugs

Posted: October 8th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Hey, do you have about an hour to kill and a need to ruin what’s left of your already tenuous grasp of the ability to sleep?

day 108 - I have nightmares

by mivox on Flickr

This 2008 podcast from This American Life, entitled Fear of Sleep, discusses conditions like night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep paralysis, and sleep attempted murder. Yours truly has been known to suffer from sleep paralysis, which is damn creepy. Your eyes open, but you can’t move or even scream because the brain juice that keeps the body still during REM sleep hasn’t left your system yet. You have awareness of your surroundings, but it’s dim and possibly accompanied by hallucinations. Now what could be creepier than lying there, confused and paralyzed? Add bedbugs!

Skip to about 21:45 for the segment “Sleep’s Tiniest Enemies.” First up: roaches. Oh yeah. You’ll be twitching and slapping yourself and digging frantically with q-tips after this one. I won’t spoil it.

If you want to get right to the bedbuggery, hit 25:25. Anyone who has suffered through bedbugs will recognize the mental anguish. A woman using the name “Stephanie” repeated all-too-familiar tales of not having guests over to her family’s apartment for years. Her sleep is interrupted all the time by bedbugs, and she has upped her coffee intake to function during the day.  It’s “so hard to sleep in a bed where you feel like the sheets are crawling.”

“There’s a lot of adrenalin with these middle of the night bites…like I would wake up in full combat mode…rage, rage, rage!”

She describes a “feeling of being assaulted, and there’s nothing I can do.” She recounts basically living out of plastic bags, vacuuming books, and coating bed legs with vaseline in an attempt to keep bedbugs from climbing. Her husband even reupholstered a beloved piece of furniture to save it.

In a chilling experiment, Stephanie kept two baby bedbugs in a sealed plastic container on her window sill. Months passed, and instead of dying, they bred.  She eventually threw the whole container out. At the end of the piece, she has just discovered more bug signs in her favorite couch, and she announces it has finally won a trip to the curb. Yet another reason not to pick up furniture you find on the sidewalk! The more polite tend to label their cast-offs, at least. “Bedbugs: Do Not Use.”

There is a happier ending for Stephanie in an update at the end of the piece. Apparently the landlord stepped up extermination efforts, and Stephanie is finally bug free. Not everyone is so lucky. Do you have a story of difficulty getting a landlord to take your bedbug problem seriously? Leave us a comment or use our contact form.

**Hat tip on the podcast to alert reader Amanda, who does not have bedbugs. Just morbid curiosity.