‘I’ve got you under my skin.’ Bed bugs on the rise!

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By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. I found lots of songs for the musical accompaniment to this article, but one in particular really stood out, Cole Porter’s smooth tune I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” It was introduced in 1936 in the Eleanor Powell MGM musical “Born to Dance” in which it was performed by Virginia Bruce. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song that year.

It was given a new lease on life by Frank Sinatra. He first sang the song in 1946 on his weekly radio show. It immediately became his signature tune, amorous, hummable, sophisticated in the distinctive Sinatra manner. In 1963 he included it in his album titled “Sinatra’s Sinatra”… and it will indeed get under your skin… like those pesky bed bugs. You’ll find it in any search engine.

Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. But if they do. Take your shoe and hit them till they’re black and blue.

My grannie said this to me at bedtime all the time, but I didn’t know what a bed bug was until I went away to college. Then I promptly got the infernal itch that comes when grannie isn’t there with her strict hygienic standards and proven bug eradication methods. The bugs know this, of course, and know they’re in for a long feast where you, itching in places you didn’t know existed, provide a most diverting floor show.

New nationwide survey shows bed bugs on the rise.

According to a survey released August 17, 2011 by the National  Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, pest control companies said there was double-digit growth in infestations in the past year. These infestations are particularly noticeable in college and other school dorms, hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, office buildings, schools and day-care centers.

About 54 percent of pest companies reported treating bed bugs in college dorms, compared with 35 percent in 2010; 80 percent treated hotels, compared with 67 percent the year before, and 36 percent report treating schools and day-care settings for the bugs, more than triple the 10 percent in 2010. In short, this is a problem with real bite.

What is a bed bug anyway?

Cimicidae (bed bugs) are small parasitic insects. The most common type is Cimex lectularius. The term usually refers to species that prefer to feed on human blood. All insects in this family live by feeding exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals.

The name “bed bug” is derived from the insect’s preferred habitat of houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. Bed bugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts.

Physical description of bed bugs.

Adult bed bugs are light brown to reddish-brown, flattened, oval shaped and have no hind wings but front wings are vestigial and reduced to pad-like structures. Adults grow to 4-5 mm in length and 1.5-3 mm wide. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, lighter in color and become browner as they moult and reach maturity.

Reproductive habits of bed bugs.

All bed bugs mate by traumatic insemination. Female bed bugs possess a reproductive tract that functions during oviposition, but the male doesn’t use this tract for sperm insemination. Instead, the male pierces the female’s abdomen with his hypodermic genitalia and ejaculates into the body cavity. As they mate, of course, your eradication problems grow and grow.

History of bed bugs.

Bed bugs may have originated in the Middle East, in caves inhabited by bats and humans.

The ancient Greeks, who chronicled everything, first wrote of bed bugs as early as 400 BC. They were later mentioned in Aristotle and in Pliny’s “Natural History” first published in Rome circa 77 AD. Pliny claimed bed bugs had medicinal value being able to treat such ailments as snake bites and ear infections. He did not explain where, should you be bitten by a snake, you would quickly find the necessary number of bed bugs to treat the bite… but no doubt that problem would be solved at the time, especially if you were bitten at home and had a large bed bug infestation to hand. “Flavius, I’ve been bitten by a snake… go fetch me as many bed bugs as you can… right now!”

Fast forward to the 18th century where Guettard recommended the use of bed bugs to cure hysteria. Not to quibble with a master, but I should have thought applying bed bugs, especially crushed and in a pasty mass, was more likely to induce hysteria rather than cure it, but I defer…

Infestation and eradication of bed bugs.

The goal of the bed bug is to infest your dwelling in every way possible:

  • “hitchhiking in” on pets, on clothing or luggage.
  • infesting items such as furniture or clothing brought in to your home
  • infesting your dwelling by entering through duct work or false ceilings
  • brought in by wild animals such as bats or birds.

Once they’re in your house, you’ve got a real problem, not least because bed bugs are elusive and hard to spot. They often lodge unnoticed in dark crevices and eggs can nestle in fabric seams. Aside from bite symptoms, signs include fecal spots, blood smears on sheets, and molts.
Bed bugs can be detected by their characteristic smell of cilantro, coriander, almonds or over-ripe raspberries. Bed bug detection dogs are trained to pinpoint infestations, with accuracy up to 97.5%.

Practical steps for getting rid of the pests.

1) Clear the infested area. Get rid of everything you don’t need and place it in tightly sealed plastic bags.

2) Remove all bedding, clothing etc. and place this in sealed plastic bags also. Launder everything at as high a temperature as possible. Items which cannot be laundered may be placed in your tumble dryer on a high setting for about 10 minutes. Alternatively you could use a steam cleaner to kill any bugs in garments unsuitable for laundering or tumble drying. Once items have been treated place them in fresh plastic bags and seal them up again to avoid recontamination. REMEMBER – you will have to check closets, drawers etc. because bed bugs will hide out anywhere.

3) Once the room is completely clear, vacuum everywhere in a methodical, thorough manner. This must include the bed, soft furnishings, curtains, inside furniture, etc. Also check places like smoke alarms, light switches and alarm clocks. It is vital that you also empty your vacuum cleaner into plastic bags and seal them tightly immediately you complete this task.

4) Repeat step three using a  steam cleaning. Bed bugs cannot withstand heat and a steam cleaner delivers an immediate, intense source. This should get rid of bed bugs at all stages of their development from eggs and nymphs through to full sized adult bugs.

5) If you have any small cracks or crevices in walls or floors now is a good time to carry out repairs. This will get rid of bed bug hiding places!

Beware of extreme eradication measures.

Bed bugs cause acute human exasperation, especially if you’ve tried to get rid of them and failed. In this case you must beware of the “I’ll get you buggers” response. Here folks engage in extreme, dangerous measures, including the use of kerosene, alcohol, gasoline, or diesel fuel.

In July, the owner of an infested Ohio home, heated his dwelling to 140 degrees… and promptly started a fire that destroyed it. On the whole it’s better to call a pest control company.  And if all else fails, sing some Sinatra beloved of the bugs who love us so, “Don’t you know, little fool, you never can win. Use your mentality. Get back to reality…” and learn to live with them…

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About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone

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