Quantcast
Got a Bedbug Bonanza?
Coming soon: the definitive bedbug extermination and prevention eBook!

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.



How Do Bedbugs Feel About the Midterm Elections?

Posted: November 4th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more Did the bedbugs of America get up to feed Wednesday morning and start muttering amongst themselves about politics? Are they even particularly invested in the political process in terms of maintaining their survival?  Are bedbugs greedy welfare queens, doing nothing but having litters of little bedbugs and sucking your life blood after you work hard all day, damn it?

Bedbugs are the closest thing we have to an equal opportunity pest. They are a uniter, not a divider. They care not whether you support fetal minimum wage or whether you ride tax loopholes or an immigrant all the way to the bank. They’ll bite you anyway, if they happen to squeak their way into your home, by hitching a ride on the instep of your Louboutins or popping out of the baseboard thanks to a rowdy infestation in the studio apartment next door. We all can agree that they are not America’s Favorite Houseguest. We’d all happily vote for bedbug interment camps if we could. We are not for genocide, mind you,  just insecticide.

There has been some speculation that the tightening of environmental regulations, including the 1972 ban on DDT, have paved the way for the rise of the bedbug. Are bedbugs the fault of namby pamby liberals who want everyone living in a safe but bland nanny state? This Newsweek article points out that bedbugs actually developed a resistance to DDT prior to the ban, so it’s a bit of a moot point. ““Bloggers talk about bringing back DDT,” says Bob Rosenberg, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, “but we had stopped using it even before 1972.””

However, they bring up other regulatory concerns when it comes to bedbugs. In 2002, Diazinon was banned for indoor use, despite still being effective after other entire classes of pesticides had become largely useless.

According to Dini Miller, an entomologist at Virginia Tech, the holy grail of pesticides is “something that you can spray on the floor and two months later a bug will pick up a lethal dose from walking across it.” Most current pesticides need to be applied nearly directly to the bug to be effective.

Propoxur seemed to be a solid bet, but when the EPA asked for more safety data in 2007, the manufacturer simply pulled it from the residential market. Per the article, “As a political matter, you face the awkward fact that several of the key decisions, in 2002 and 2007, were taken under the auspices of the famously antiregulatory Bush administration.”

Last year the EPA refused the bedbug-stricken state of Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption from the ban on Propoxur, basing their rejection on the potential unstudied danger to children in a home. Apparently the agency is still considering making it available on an emergency basis if special precautions for children are followed.

There are no new chemicals in the pipeline, and, as Miller points out, companies looking at a 10-year testing and approval process costing as much as $200 million aren’t lining up to produce one. The big profits in pesticides are in crops and lawns, and research money, such as it is, mostly goes to mosquitoes. Bedbugs suffer—or, from their point of view, benefit—from the fact that they are merely household pests and don’t transmit disease. Miller, in jest, says she sometimes wishes they did.

So, bedbugs, it looks like you may be off the hook for now. Even an overnight sea change in government can’t alter the fact that research still needs to be done. It’s unlikely that the patent and testing and approval process will be dismantled overnight, especially not in a congress split between red and blue control.

Or maybe bedbugs will in fact turn out to be the new WPA as infestations spread. Job creation! Ahem. Not that we do this for a living or anything. Come forth, ye unemployed, don a headlamp and grab your contractor bags and a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol. The government will pay you a shiny hay penny per bedbug head. You’d be wise to convert that to gold, ASAP.



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.”



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.



Iowa you one, Real Landlord of Genius

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

Hot bedbugs in Sioux City!  Sioux City landlord Scott Mann claims that for $200 per room, he will bake your bedbugs at 140 degrees.

Bedbug ground zero was an abandoned apartment Mr. Mann called “the mother of all infested places.” His new heater system raised the temperatures to a deadly 140 degrees, high enough to kill bedbugs (anything over 120 degrees is thought to do the trick) but not to damage home furnishings.

Apparently this did the trick. After 4 hours, dead bedbugs littered the apartment. Imagine being the guy with the push broom cleaning that up. Do they crunch when you step on them? What does one do with bedbug corpses? Viking funeral? Do they make fertilizer? A nice addition to pet food? We don’t want to know, for once. What if one of the bedbugs was just faking, as you might find in your finer horror films? Bedbug commandeers garbage truck; rams blood mobile.

Heat treatment may be a desirable alternative to chemical pesticides, as pesticide application often fails to penetrate all areas of an apartment. Bedbugs are notorious for hiding in the tiniest nooks and crannies. There are also potential environmental and health concerns with any pesticide use, although some people swear by professional extermination.

Heat treatment of an entire apartment or home is often logistically difficult, so it will be interesting to see if Mr. Mann’s methods are feasible on a larger scale.  People mistakenly think that cranking up their apartment’s thermostat will do the job, but this is simply not accurate. The maximum high temperature on a typical thermostat is only about 90 degrees. At this writing, no one has done any studies on wearing all your clothes at once in a sauna, although this site’s writers wouldn’t shy away if someone gave us a grant.

Heat is often used in small, controlled environments to treat personal belongings like mattresses and furniture. The average household dryer is capable of reaching temps high enough to treat clothing.  A product for the home market, the Packtite, heats up a sealed chamber, allowing easy treatment of suitcases and other small personal items.

On a commercial scale, welcome the Insect Inferno, a portable trailer that will raise its inside temperature to appropriate but non-damaging levels. Apparently, it takes less than an hour to decontaminate a king size mattress. Paying for heat decontamination seems like a blessing compared to discarding all your worldly creepy-crawly goods. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of various extermination methods in more depth in the coming weeks. If you’ve used heat to beat your own bedbug problem, leave us a comment!