The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








How to block bedbugs
Keep the critters out of your life

By Ryan Lessard

Humans are fairly unified in their hatred of mosquitoes, fear of ticks, disgust at cockroaches and revulsion toward spiders, but too often the reaction to bed bugs is shame. They’re swept under the proverbial rug.

This, according to Dr. Gary Nielsen, is one of the biggest reasons why bed bugs are so often allowed to thrive. 
Nielsen is an entomologist and director of training at JP Pest Services in Milford. He says people often fear the bug’s spread to their property, or those who are already dealing with an infestation are afraid of being ostracized or associated with poverty.
“With bed bugs, it doesn’t make a difference if your address is Pennsylvania Avenue or Pine Street,” Nielsen said. “They’re the most egalitarian of all pests.”
So, he says more people should be willing to ask for help when they suspect they have bed bugs and more people should be willing to offer assistance.
How bed bugs first enter one’s home is still a bone of contention, Nielsen says, since there hasn’t been enough research on the question, but he believes picking up used furniture and bringing it home can often be a vector for the pest. People can also get bed bugs that ride in their clothes or belongings after staying in a hotel or motel. Even library books can be carriers.
Identifying the bug can be tricky for a non-scientist. Adults are a little smaller than an apple seed and nymphs can be much tinier. And despite some myths to the contrary, their bites don’t follow any distinctive pattern. They typically occur wherever skin is exposed. 
Nielsen suggests you bag any bugs you suspect of being a bed bug and bring it to an expert at a pest service for confirmation.
If you find out you’ve been exposed to bed bugs, the very first thing Nielsen says you should do is put all your clothes (or any other washable items exposed) into the washing machine, take a shower and then dry your washed items on high for 20 minutes. If you don’t have access to a washer, go straight to the dryer.
“Drying is more important than washing is,” Nielsen says.
That’s because one of the insect’s two big weaknesses is heat. Like ticks, bed bugs have wide flat bodies and all that surface area means heat can rapidly rob the bugs of moisture.
He said bed bugs got their name because they can only effectively feed on sleeping people and animals.
“They need you to be zonked out. They need you to be totally asleep, because if you were awake it would be very easy for you to squash these things as they start to feed on you,” Nielsen said.
Which leads us to bed bugs’ other major weakness: poor climbing skills.
“Everybody should know about having to make their bed an island,” Nielsen said.
If bed bugs are confirmed in a home, the simplest way to eradicate them is to cut them off from their food supply. To that end, Nielsen says you should move your bed away from the wall, keep blankets off the floor and wrap your box spring in a bug-proof encasement. Then, under each leg of the bed frame, place a device called an interceptor to trap bed bugs trying to enter or exit the bed. Popular brands include ClimbUp and BlackOut and they look like small, plastic dog bowls. The same bed island approach is recommended when staying at hotels, whenever possible.
If your efforts fail or the infestation is too large, then it may be time to hire a pest-control service. The cost can vary a great deal based on level of infestation and size of the home. You can often request a specialist to inspect the home and provide an estimate. 

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