They can hide anywhere, they emerge at night to feast on your blood, and they can lurk inside your home for a year or more, just waiting for the right opportunity to attack. Worse yet, there is no safe place; they have infested every part of our society. Even innocent children are not spared.
Sounds like a vampire, maybe a zombie? No, it's something even more horrifying: Bedbugs.
Bedbugs have been spreading over the last few years; there was even a "bedbug summit" this past summer in Chicago that drew exterminators, scientists, and property managers to share the very best thinking for getting rid of the bloodsucking creepy-crawlies. Some have called this the worst infestation since World War II.
The problem is that bedbugs have become resistant to most pesticides, so they've been able to spread more easily and are as hard to kill as an undead zombie.
Do NOT Attempt This Yourself
There's some hope, though: Recently the EPA has released a list of pesticides that are effective against bedbugs.
Here's the problem: The Home Depot and Lowe's don't carry any of the EPA-approved products, most of which contain permethrin (also used for treating head lice), diatomaceous earth, or deltamethrin. If you see any of those on the shelves, it might be worth a shot to try them, especially if you have a light infestation.
However, Google most of the products on the EPA's list and you get scary-looking kits with home sprayers and other odd implements. There's apparently a reason most people hire an exterminator. And be aware that if a product doesn't carry an EPA registration number, it has not been approved by the EPA.
The EPA warns not to be shy with the application, either. You know how in a horror movie trying weakly to kill the scary creature just angers it and makes it come back stronger? Same with bedbugs; those not killed by a too-timid application of the pesticide will reproduce, passing their un-killable genes on to offspring.
Things You CAN Attempt Yourself
There are non-chemical solutions that work.
1. They can't handle very hot temperatures, so one way to kill them is to crank up the heat in affected areas to at least 113 degrees for at least one hour, and wash bedding in hot water.
2. Freezing also clears out some infestations.
3. And of course, you can smother them; if you have been infested, encase your mattress, box spring, and pillow in allergy-friendly covers. If the cover traps dust mites it will do the same for bedbugs. The only catch is, you have to leave it there for at least a year to allow the trapped bugs and eggs to die.
Bedbugs can't make you sick; they can, however, give you itchy red welts and a major case of the willies. That's enough to take up arms against these creepy invaders and take back your home.