Monday, September 20, 2010

Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite

It seems like you can't watch the news today without seeing a story about bedbugs. Despite all the recent buzz, bedbugs have actually been around for a long time and by the look of things, they are here to stay.

Bedbugs were common in the U.S. before World War II, but became rare after the pesticide DDT effectively wiped them out. Despite the chemical eviction from the United States, bedbugs did just fine in the rest of the world and since they can hitch a ride on clothing and luggage, international travel eventually brought them back.

Not exactly sure what a "bedbug" is? They are small, oval, non-flying insects, often mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches. Adult bedbugs range from 5-7mm in length, while nymphs (juveniles) can be as small as 1.5mm. With a reddish brown color, they feed by sucking blood from animals or humans.

The bites itch and in some cases can cause an allergic reaction, but they do not carry disease. While it may make your skin crawl just thinking about them, bedbugs are actually clean critters. The prevailing theory is that new bugs were introduced from overseas, because the ones found in cities now are resistant to different insecticides from those used on poultry or cockroaches. Visiting hotels and other infested homes are common ways to get the bedbugs. They hide in mattresses, pillows, and curtains, but have no problem climbing into your luggage or clothing and tagging along for the ride.

Today's bedbugs have now evolved to be DDT-resistant and bug killers around the country have learned quickly that one chemical alone will not eliminate these pests. Some of the innovative techniques used to get rid of bedbugs are heat treatments, steam, and vacuums. Bug-sniffing dogs, trained in a similar way as bomb- or drug-sniffers, can alert to an infestation at an early stage, when it's easier to manage.

Some people overreact, even developing delusional parasitosis, the illusion that bugs are crawling on them. It is smart to be aware, but not panicky. Despite the fact that they do not carry disease, the bites can become infected by too much scratching.

Experts say that if you don't have bedbugs now, there is a high likelihood you will one day. But you can minimize your chances with simple steps, such as learning what a bedbug looks like and then keeping your eyes peeled. So tonight, sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite!

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