By Patch Leslie Yager
More than a year has passed since we exterminated the last of the tiny brown menaces that invaded our house in the early spring of 2012. When we finally realized the source of what felt like death by a thousand cuts, the exterminator assured us that at least five trucks from his organization were at homes in Greenwich that day, all tackling bed bug infestations.
That didn't make us feel much better. Most people share news of their bed bugs on a need-to-know basis, which I understand. My best friend politely demurred when I offered her a ride in my car. "I'll meet you at the restaurant," she insisted and I didn't even bother explaining that was unnecessary.
Since most people won't learn much about the tiny brown bugs or what they look like until it's too late, here are a few fun facts based on my de facto expert status.
Bed bugs don't bite men as often as women and children.This is something of a cruel twist since oftentimes a father travels for business, picks up a bug in his luggage and brings it home to the family. (Tip to travelers: put your suitcases in the tub or bathroom floor rather than on the carpeting or bed.)
You may never even see a bug. Bed bugs come out at night and the dermatologist I saw for what I insisted was poison ivy suggested sleeping with a flashlight. That was actually great advice. I couldn't sleep anyway. If you want to know if you have bed bugs, just fling up the covers and catch the little buggers at2:00am and confirm their presence or absence.
Another way to check for bed bugs is to look in the crevices of the piping along the sides of your mattress. If you see little black dogs and lines, you're in trouble. Those marks are their droppings.
You do not need to throw out your mattresses. In fact, the exterminator said oftentimes people inadvertently sprinkle the bugs through the house by dragging the mattress down the stairs and out the front door. Instead, cover mattresses in the special zippered casings designed to keep bugs from getting in or out.
Put all your bedding and clothes through a hot dryer to kill them. Move them from the infested room to the laundry area inside sealed plastic bags. They die in the high heat after 20 minutes.
Choose your exterminator and method. We were quoted $6,000 by an outfit that kills the bugs through a method utilizing high heat. They literally cook them where they crawl.
If you're on a budget, go for the spray technique. We have a 3-bedroom house on 4 different levels and the cost was over $1,000. The exterminator comes in and sprays and you stay out of the house for several hours after every visit. But don't expect all the bugs to die after the first spraying. Our home required four or five sprayings, and we continued to be bitten up until the final visit.
Don't blame the dog. Bed bugs aren't interested in pets. And they don't transport them like ticks. But do keep your pets out of the house when the exterminator comes to spray.
Bed bugs don't carry disease. They leave very itchy bites often in clusters of three.
According to PestWorld.org, the bed bug situation is not waning. Far from it. Bed bugs continue to remain the most difficult pest to treat - more difficult than cockroaches, termites and ants. According to Pest World, regular bed bug inspections are the best method of avoiding bed bug infestation. More information is available on the Pest World website.
I wouldn't wish bed bugs on my worst enemy, much less a Patch reader, so I hope this list of tips helps you sleep tight tonight.