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Rise of the Bedbug

“Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” If you’re familiar with that old rhyme you may’ve grown up thinking that was just an innocent lyric; but in reality, it originated during a time when the warning was quite valid.

That’s because until the late 1940’s, bedbugs were a commonly encountered pest in U.S. households, where they would emerge at night to feed on the blood of sleeping humans. Attracted to the warmth and carbon dioxide emitted by humans, they were able to quickly and extensively infest homes by hitchhiking on clothes, luggage, and furniture. It wasn’t until the development of synthetic pesticides that bedbugs were nearly eradicated and thus relegated to near folklore esteem for nearly 50 years. But that’s all since changed.

Bedbugs Bite Back

Although reports of bedbug infestations began somewhat recently, one of the causes of this revival occurred many decades ago with the loss of one of the most effective weapons against the pest: The chemical known as DDT.

Before its infamous reputation, DDT was regarded as something of a miracle spray for all things pest-related. And for good reason too…the stuff worked. But in a time before EPA regulation, irresponsible application drew attention to potential ecological side-effects, including those which could affect humans. In 1972, DDT was banned for most commercial applications. While this was better for the immediate human environment, it was also better for the bedbugs living in it. And though safer products have since been developed, bedbugs have been developing a defense of their own: Genetic resistance.

Although the majority of bedbugs will die when exposed to a given pesticide, a few individuals who are genetically less susceptible to the pesticide will survive long enough to reproduce. Their offspring will, of course, carry those resistant genes and will thereby be more likely to survive the next application of pesticide. Though more will die, the strongest of that generation (i.e., the strongest of the strong) will also survive and multiply. This means that while the population as a whole may dwindle, the individuals left behind will become continually more resistant, leading to a population rebound.

Add to all that our increased intercontinental travel (among other factors), and 60 years later, the bedbugs are back. Pest control companies in large cities have reported 10, 20, even 100-fold increases in bedbug remediation just between 2003 and 2006. Here at Deans, we’ve seen a sharp increase as well, but having anticipated this, we were able to consult with some of the nation’s leading experts in this field and develop a comprehensive approach to controlling this returning rival.

Still, educating yourself about prevention is invaluable, so take a look at a few tips below and keep these bloodthirsty bugs from bunking in your bed!

Bedbug Prevention

Know Your Enemy
Bedbugs are small, but by no means too small to be seen. A fully grown bedbug is bigger than most people expect (just smaller than a grain of rice). Also look for small reddish-black dots staining walls or mattresses— these droppings indicate bedbugs are present. Bite marks most commonly appear as three or four small red dots placed in a row, but everyone reacts to bedbug bites differently with a minority of people showing no reaction at all.

Inspect When Traveling
The most commonly infested sites include hotels and dorm rooms, so always take a moment to inspect your bed when traveling. Bedbugs are generally hidden during the day, but you can find them around headboards, baseboards, and mattress seams. Also inspect new furniture or bedding, since these can also transport infestations. Avoid refurbished mattresses and box springs, since they’re often rewrapped, which can conceal an infestation.

Wrap Your Beds
Using bedbug mattress and box spring encasements will reduce the chance of infestation and make remediation much easier. Protecta-Bed is generally the brand most trusted by professionals. Watch out for cheap imitations which may tear over time.

Avoid Snake Oil Salesmen
Since the return of bedbugs, many products have appeared on the market claiming to be completely safe while offering immediate eradication of bedbugs without “toxic” chemicals. Don’t fall prey to these claims. As any honest pest professional can attest, completely ridding a home of bedbugs may at times require both chemical and non chemical approaches. As Entomologist Gwen Pearson said, “You can spray your bedbugs with “Essential Oils”…but they’ll just smell minty.”

Contact a Reputable Professional
Though there are DIY kits available, most are either ineffective or potentially unsafe if applied without adequate training. If you suspect activity, be sure to contact a reputable Pest Management Professional. Even if you choose a company other than Deans, just be sure they have the same extensive experience with bedbugs and offer a similar 100% elimination guarantee.