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Bed Bug Bites: a Resurgent Nuisance

Updated on March 21, 2012


Bed bugs, having declined in the middle of the last century, are now making a comeback in western nations such as the U.S.A, U.K and Australia. The problem is by no means confined either to squalid, poorer neighborhoods.

The first time I got Bed bug bites was when I was a small child living with my mother and brother in the wilds of eastern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The irritation of the bed bug bites themselves was transcended by the nuisance of having to vacate the farm house whilst the bedrooms and bedding and furnishings were fumigated. At the time, as I recall, we were far more interested in exploring the larger creatures like leopards that roamed around our house!

Bed bug bites:picture

A resurgent worldwide problem

But the problem, as I have learned, is by no means confined to remote locations in the Third World. Bed bugs are becoming a major, resurgent problem in rich, western nations, after having declined in the 1950's. The problem has become so severe in the USA that there was a "National Bed Bug Symposium" held in Newark, N.J and Seattle, WA in 2009. Apparently bed bug infestations are on the rise in all 50 states. According to industry research, pest management companies have reported a 71% increase in bed bug calls since 2001 and annual sales from pest-control-related products have increased by more than 30% in 2008 from the previous year. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A) recently held a National Bed Bug Summit (!) in Washington, D.C. to discuss the growing problem of bed bug infestations for homeowners as well as for hotels, college dormitories, multi-family housing and other forms of accommodation. There has also been a reported increase in bed bug infestations in the U.K and Australia.

Even the rich and famous are not immune

 In her 2009 interview with the talk-show host  David Letterman, "Weeds" TV star Mary-Louise Parker, talked about her suspected bed bug problem and said she was considering getting her house fumigated. Letterman wondered if they burrowed into people's skin, like ticks, and Parker explained, "They don't burrow into your body but they burrow into your life." Because her son had some bites on his arm, she had hired a Pest Control company to inspect her home-more specifically, a dog named "Bugsy". The dog sniffed around (if he smells the bedbugs, he sits down apparently!).

Difference between Bed Bugs and bed mites

People are sometimes confused between a bed bug and a bed mite, the latter better known as the good old House Dust mite. Some of the differences are:

  • Dust mites feed off dead skin cells, whilst Bed Bugs,like vampires, feed off one's blood.
  • Dust mites are everywhere present, whilst bed bugs are not .
  • Dust mites have eight legs, bed bugs have six. 
  • Bed Bug Infestation can be dealt with but Dust Mite infestation can only be contained

So how do bed bugs spread ?

 Well, there is some evidence that unclean and cluttered-up houses can attract bed bugs: bad sanitation results in higher infestation and bed bugs can be found where animals and humans come in to closer proximity e.g bird nests can be close to homes and since the bugs feed on warm blooded animals, they can be easily move into our houses. Perhaps this was the case with our farmhouse in Rhodesia.

But you can live in a very up-market tidy house (as I am sure Mary-Louise Parker does) and still have bed-bugs. why is that? An answer is that bed bugs are hitchhikers par excellence. They love places where lots of people congregate. So an aeroplane, a hostel, a YMCA are all on their tourist list. They jump on things like suitcases, so when you are in a hotel or motel it might be wise to keep them and your clothes away from the bed! Check the headboard and mattress for bed bugs. They leave tiny reddish or black streaks on sheets. If you notice any when checking into a hostel or hotel room, consider asking the desk clerk for a new room. When you get home, open the cases and store them away from the bedroom.

Find a strategy to eliminate bed bugs

There are a variety of methods and products you can employ when considering how to kill bed bugs in your home. Cleaning-particularly steam cleaning affected areas in and around bed- is a priority. Also use vacuum cleaners with a proper HEPA filter, as A HEPA Vacuum Cleaner captures over 99 % of allergy particles in its filter. Other vacuum cleaners will allow allergy particles to escape and scatter into the air while vacuuming. Certainly consider a Pest Control operator but note that many pest-control companies lack specific bedbug expertise-they've just added this to their supposed portfolio, so check their credentials. Remember: bed bugs are not omnipresent like dust mites and they do not cause disease. They can be beaten. So find your strategy and fight back!

Steam cleaners to help eliminate bed bugs

HEPA vacuum cleaners


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Good on yer!

    • profile image

      Jan Littlehales 

      9 years ago

      Think I'll go and wash the sheets and mattress protector - again - and maybe vacuum the mattress as well !


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