I said in my last post I’d cover prevention and causes in a different one so people who just want to know how to deal with the creepy crawly vampires can skip the fiction stuff.
Quick recap, my bf has a friend named Charlie who’s an exterminator and he gave me a great idea for a book wherein a curse in the form of the on the rise terrorists known as bed bugs take over a town. So I quizzed him on these critters and here’s what I got from him on causes and prevention methods.
First of all, how did these things rise again? The bug sprays that basically wiped them out in the US around the 50s worked pretty well. BUT then the effective stuff was banned due to health concerns. And they started to rise again about 20 years ago. A big reason for this was international travel. Travelers came here infested and we went out there and got infested.
And if that weren’t enough, the big thing that has made them skyrocket the past few years was the EPA.
Yeah, you read that right. We’re not going to really get into the Constitutionality of regulatory agencies here, but they are a huge problem because they make laws, which is supposed to be the purview of Congress, and they are not directly accountable to the people like legislators are. They rose through Congressional hand-wavium wherein they granted the executive branch power to make these agencies and empower them and they have been making rulings, some good and some bad, without being able to be voted out ever since.
In 1996 the EPA banned a lot of chemicals that were effective against the bed bugs, but even then, they weren’t too big of a deal, mostly just a problem in apartments in New York City and maybe would pop up in hotels here and there.
They’ve gotten really bad in the last few years and have become an epidemic. And this is partially just from the inevitable spread once they got a foothold in the US again, but also from the EPA banning in commercial spaces the effective pesticides that sterilize and weaken the bugs until they fall to the poison.
This means the hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, schools, ect that get bed bugs can hire exterminators who can spray some things and can heat the place, if the place can afford it, but they can’t spray the most effective one for controlling these things, the one that will keep the bugs who managed to survive from being able to reproduce and will kill them in about two weeks if not sooner.
And that is what’s really gotten people. You don’t think of bed bugs when you go to the movies, but you have to now.
That gets us into prevention: they don’t travel on people (usually). They don’t like to be on moving things and usually run and hide if you move. BUT the eggs can be on things that move like clothes, backpacks, purses. Apparently they don’t really stick to skin or hair, even animal fur, so I had to change that for the story, but they can be on people’s clothes. And then rub off onto stuff they sit on, like a restaurant chair.
This is when I really started to freak out. Charlie told me he’s gone to restaurants, movie theaters and even on planes where he was like, bed bug egg, oh there’s another one, and another one.
And if you sit on them, they can stick to your clothes and go home with you.
Panicking yet? 🙂
Charlie said your miracle weapon against the eggs hitching a ride is a lint roller. You go out any place in public, just lint roll whatever has been touching the chairs, like your back and butt, and then your purse bottom, if it’s winter then you run it over your coat. And this would stop the spread of most of them, since public places are how they really get from one home to another, unless you visit an infested friend’s place or you have people stay with you who have eggs or bugs in their suitcases/clothes.
Another thing I didn’t know is they are big enough to see. I was under the impression they were tiny like gnats and you couldn’t see them and that’s why they were so bad. Nope, they’re big. The eggs are about 1 mm, but big enough to see if you are looking for white, almost rice shaped things, and the bugs are up to about a forth of an inch.
The one people have heard about is people bringing them home from hotel rooms, so most people know to look for them. You pull up the mattress and check under it along the edges and pull up the sheets to check the edges too, since the bugs live along the seems and in cracks.
They have one great weakness and that’s heat. According to Charlie, who does this for a living and does the research, they die at about one minute at their core temp reaching 109 degrees. This doesn’t mean that heat will kill them, it means if they can find insulation or get the hell outta dodge, that it will kill them once it heats their core.
So another big thing people need to make sure they do is wash all bedclothes, outerwear, or any clothes that may have come into contact with the bugs/eggs in hot water and dry them on hot. That’ll kill a lot of things, but definitely the heat sensitive bed bug.
And then, just for extra measures just in case something got through the measures or a visitor brings them in, and just for good hygiene, steam clean mattresses and couches about once a month.
Charlie said he’s been an exterminator for 21 years and he’s never once brought any bed bugs back with him and that’s because he lint rolls, washes anything worn into the houses in hot water, and cleans the major cloth furniture once a month with a steam cleaner.
So, since these bugs are on the rise and the EPA doesn’t give a shit about people getting infested because well, those big bad pesticides could give people headaches or nausea and the EPA obviously knows what’s better for you than you do, everyone should start taking precautions in the form of lint rollers, hot water washing, and steam cleaning.
Good luck and good health 🙂