Bed bug killers like Richard Cooper hate people like me, those who are freaked out by these nasty little biters but remain in denial to the point that we are partly to blame for the recent bed bug infestation problems.
I know no one, including me, is immune to bed bugs. I know I could pick up a bed bug and bring it into my home. But I don't really believe that's going to happen to me, because I'm not the type of person who gets bed bugs.
See, that's the very dangerous attitude that prevents me from taking steps to prevent infestations in my house or helping to tame the larger problem of the blood-thirsty bastards taking over the world, which, if you read the papers, is exactly what they seem to be doing.
If more people like me were simply aware, and took the risks and warnings seriously, the bed bug problem in New York City and other urban areas would not be as out of control as it is, according to Cooper, the ruthless bed bug hunter, research entomologist, and vice president of his own pest control company at BedBugCentral.com.
Staying home from the movies and passing on sexy lingerie at Victoria's Secret, sites of recent bed bug parties, is not the solution. Thinking, acting, and doing like a professional bed bug hit man is.
So, yeah, this is one instance where most of us need to get a little paranoid about the whole thing. If the thought of a hitchhiking bug from any number of public places or the picture above doesn't skive you out enough, consider some of these little known facts about bed bugs:
-- 1 in every 15 people in New York are dealing with a problem right now.
-- Bed bugs can hide ANYWHERE, not just your bed. They've been found in weird places such as the head of an adjustable wrench, on deodorant dispensers, and inside a coffee maker. It just takes one to spit out more babies and make your life a living hell.
-- A third of homeowners/renters don't realize they have bugs in their home. This from a recent university study of people with known infestations.
-- You can be bitten repeatedly and not feel it. Bed bugs could be feasting on you for days before you see a welt or feel itchy.
-- Infestations cost a small fortune. You're looking at at least several hundred dollars for a pest control expert, over several visits. You need 100 percent elimination, or the bugs will come back.
Scared yet? Works for me, which is why I asked Cooper what he does to keep his home pest-free.
1. Know the risks & signs.
What public places do the bugs like best? Do you even know what a bed bug looks like? This is important to know. Obviously, some places are at higher risk than others, namely busy public locations with upholstered chairs that supply human blood meals in them for periods of time, as well as the places that people tend to stash their belongings, especially during the nighttime hours, as bedbugs are nocturnal. Bed bugs are more likely in the city than the suburbs, in apartments more so than a house. Higher risk public places include:
College dorms and lecture halls
Offices and employee break room areas
WebMD has a great slideshow of what bed bugs look like, and how to identify bites -- usually in a series of rows. That close-up horrified me plenty.
2. Encase your box spring.
If you do nothing else, do this! says Cooper. These special box spring and mattress coverings -- priced under $100 -- won't prevent the bugs from entering your home, but they will stop them from traveling deep into the bowels of your box spring and mattress, making them easier to detect. Not all are created equal -- Cooper recommends only one product that his company co-developed, and that is discussed more on his site. But it's always worth doing your own research and asking your specialist what he recommends.
3. Travel light in public.
If you're going to the movies, library, or another public place, leave unnecessary jackets or bags at home, minimizing the items onto which bed bugs can try to hitch a ride with you. When you get home, inspect your clothes and/or toss immediately into a hot dryer to kill any bugs and their larvae. Consider using a washable canvas tote instead of a leather handbag for just these purposes.
4. Bake your luggage.
Buy a device called the PackTite, a portable luggage cooker. Like I said, these tips are for the super paranoid -- $300 is a small price to pay if you can avoid an infestation, especially if you travel a lot. These are selling like hotcakes and a lot of websites are already out of stock. This collapsible, chemical-free device travels with you to hotels and allows you to heat items like luggage and bags that cannot safely go into the dryer. Watch the video.
5. Call an expert right away!
If you spot one bug in your home, there's probably more. The average person has bugs in their home for two to four months before they actually detect them. As with disease, your best shot at beating the problem is catching it early. There is no effective "natural" way to get rid of bed bugs. You need professionals armed with serious chemicals who know these critters and their hiding places inside and out.
Have you dealt with bed bugs? How did you get rid of them?
Image via liz.novak/Flickr