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Vampires of the Night: What you can do to protect yourself from bed bugs

For over six decades, bed bugs were thought to be fully eradicated; however, these tiny little pests are back with a vengeance. Only one thing is sure to kill them, but completely wiping them out might be harder than you think.

Bed Bugs are small rust-colored parasites that feed on their host while they sleep. They are about the size of an apple seed and can hide in any space that a credit card can fit into. These blood-sucking vampires multiply quickly, making them nearly impossible to eliminate. One female bed bug can produce five eggs in a day! This can equal to over 1,800 bed bugs crawling around in your home in just one year.

Bedbugs in all stages, before and after feeding.

Bed Bugs are more than 3,000 years old and date back to ancient Egypt. They are thought to have come to the United States on the Mayflower and experts all agree that they cannot recall a time when these insects were not an issue and a problem.

Heat is the only known kryptonite for bed bugs and early colonists used fire and boiling water as one of the many ways to combat a growing infestation. Other names associated with bed bugs were “wall-lice,” “red-coates,” and “mahogany flats.”

In 1939, Paul Hermann Muller, a Swiss chemist, discovered the pesticide DDT, which was proven to be powerfully effective in killing bed bugs. In later years, the use of the vacuum cleaner, wash machine, and clothes dryer all helped in the control of bed bugs. By the 1950’s, bed bugs in the U.S. had been completely eradicated, but that would not last for long and would soon change.

Bed Bugs Today

In the 1990’s a new strain of bed bugs had emerged. They were resistant to DDT and most other pesticides. In New York City alone, there were 11,000 complaints. Many residents were unaware that they had an infestation, because bed bugs are excellent at hiding in sofas, tiny wall cracks, handbags, and electronics. By the time most people had woke up to itchy bites all over them, the unwelcome parasites had multiplied in massive numbers making them almost impossible to get rid of.

Bed bugs are found just about everywhere: movie theaters, public transportation, and clothing stores just to name a few. And because they are excellent little hitchhikers, it makes it easier for them to find their way into your home.

How to Protect Yourself Against Bed Bugs

  • Wash and dry all new clothing before wearing or putting away.

  • Change out of house and street clothes before climbing into your bed.

  • Do not bring used or previously owned furniture into your home.

  • Vacuum everyday and dump canister immediately in a trash dumpster outdoors.

  • Use plastic liners inside your laundry basket or clothes hamper. Never put clean clothes inside a dirty basket or liner.

  • Dry clothes for at least 40 minutes, this is very important! Heat will kill bedbugs at all stages, including their eggs.

  • Do not store things under your bed. This makes a wonderful breeding ground for bedbugs.

  • When traveling, always inspect your hotel room and lodging area before unpacking. Look for dark spots on the sheets, mattress, and pillow case (these are bedbug feces) and inspect the edges of the mattress for live bedbugs and eggs.

  • Change and wash your bed linen at least once a week.

  • Place certified bedbug protective coverings on your boxspring and mattress. This will prevent them from hiding deep inside and multiplying. It will also trap any bedbugs already there where they will starve and die.

  • Place bedbug interceptors on the feet of your bed. This will trap any bugs trying to get to you as you sleep.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) and Insecticide powders are extremely useful in eliminating bed bugs. They work by clinging to the insect and causing death by dehydration. DE may take up to a few weeks, but insecticide powders, such as Cimexa, take as little as a few hours to kill.

If you have bedbugs, do not go stay with a friend or relative in the hopes of starving them out, because bedbugs can survive without blood for up to 18 months or longer. They will be waiting for your return! Besides you only risk spreading them to others if you stay somewhere else. Please remember that anyone can get bedbugs. They do not discriminate and do not care about your ethnicity, status in life, or cleanliness. They only want and need blood in order to survive. They will feed from animals and pests if a human is not available, but they prefer to feed off people.

These vampires of the night can and will feed during the daytime. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide from your breath as you sleep; when hungry enough, they will feed, regardless of the time of day.

Well, there you have it! As the old saying goes, “Good night. Sleep tight. And don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

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