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Darling, Is That A Bedbug? Aaaarrrgh!

Bedbugs are the stuff of legends—so notorious they are that there’s even a popular nursery rhyme dedicated to it, and so mysterious that most of us would have never actually seen one. But bedbugs are as real as it can get, just ask those who have been bitten.
Bedbugs are hardy creatures that have been around since time immemorial. They have been pestering people and animals for as long as the books can recount, but in recent history (after WWII) they were eradicated from most developed countries with the use of the pesticide DDT. But now the creepy crawly is making a comeback—no thanks to the convenience and boom of international travel, bedbugs can hitchhike to any developed nation anytime they want. A single pregnant bedbug can hide in your rucksack all the way back to the US and onto your bed.

Panicked homeowners and hospitality business owners across the US are now at a loss with what to do. DDT is no longer used today because of its harmful effects to the environment. Recent cases of bedbug infestations have led to numerous studies about how the bedbugs migrate, proliferate and how they can be killed.

A bedbug is a reddish brown, wingless insect that is about the size of an apple seed when mature. They feed on blood, usually on animal blood such as livestock and cattle, but they also feed on human blood. These insects live in clusters and they come out to feed on unsuspecting victims at night. During the day, they like hiding in dark, cool crevices such as in mattresses, bed frames and even between wallpaper. Because of the sheer number of bedbugs, their small size, and their choice of dwelling, it can be very hard to eliminate them yourself. You will most probably need the help of professional pest exterminators.

Many people feel stigmatized when they discover bedbugs at home because they feel that bedbugs only infest dirty homes. As such, they may be afraid to ask for help, futilely attempting to get rid of the bedbugs themselves. Bedbugs do not discriminate between dirty homes and clean homes, as long as they have a host to feed on.

Bedbugs can usually be found in places where there is a high overnight guest turnover. These include hotels, hostels, inns, hospitals, or homeless shelters. The reason for this is that bedbugs can move around so quickly, they can hide in your luggage or even in your shoes when they’re done feeding (on you, no less) and when you move, you take them with you. Come nighttime, they can crawl out from your luggage and voila, they’re settled and ready to breed in their new home. Bedbugs can also come with any secondhand furniture that you purchased from a flea market or a garage sale. Little did you know that you were bringing something else other than what you purchased, this is why it is so important to check for telltale signs of bedbugs when buying a piece of secondhand furniture, especially if it’s upholstered.

Bedbug bites are very red and very itchy. You will usually find a large group of bites, with each bite having a dark red and slightly raised center. The marks will usually last for a couple of weeks and the itch will persist for just as long. There is usually no treatment required for bedbug bites, but doctors will usually prescribe topical creams to relieve the itching. Some people may have severe allergic reactions to the bites and in these cases, the itchiness may last for longer and the bites may leave lasting dark spots.

In order to ensure that you don’t bring home any bedbugs to your home, take note of the following:

  • When checking into hotels, check the mattresses and beddings. Watch out for telltale signs of bedbug infestation which includes: dark red spots or stains, remnants of molted shell—light brown skin casings. Look under the mattress too.
  • Try to bring hard case luggage which makes it hard for bedbugs to latch on to.
  • Keep your luggage off the bed or floor, instead set it atop a table. Do the same with your clothes and shoes.
  • Shake the clothes that you used to sleep in vigorously before repacking for your onward trip. If possible, wrap them in a Ziploc bag.
  • When you come home, keep your luggage in the garage. Take out all your clothes and wash them ASAP, and run everything through a heat dryer which should kill any bedbug.