One problem, since bed bug infestations are a relatively new occurrance in North America (and Europe too), is that there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there. None of us are entirely sure about how bed bugs will act, or how we should get rid of them. Some folks don’t even agree that we need to get rid of them.
I posted last week about an article an author wrote on the NY Indymedia site about his attempts to live with bedbugs (he intends to live alongside them, and yet avoid being bitten). He’s now posted a second article in the Portland Indymedia site, arguing that:
Therefore I have isolated my bed. I am sleeping ‘tight’, and I just will not let those bed bugs bite. Bed bugs have trouble climbing the side of a metal coffee tin, which some people use around the bottom of their bed posts. I am using the highly polished slipper surface of a stainless steel bowl, since if bed bugs have trouble with a coffee can, I am sure they will have even more trouble walking upside down up the slippery slope of that stainless steel bowl. Inside the stainless steel bowl I have water. I have been considering adding some insecticide, but even water would probably be good enough. You see a soaking wed (sic) bed bug can hardly walk, due to the extra weight of that water, and therefore, since I have greased my metal bed posts with slippery vaseline, it seems unlikely that such an overburdened creature will be able to pull its soaking wet carcass vertically up that greased pole. I have a glue trap consisting of double sided carpet tape further up the pole. I am wrapping my mattress and box spring, trapping bed bugs inside where they will starve to death. I am adding on tropical insect netting, as an extra barrier. I will be putting a six inch barrier of fresh water Diatomaceous Earth around the stainless steel bowls (do not use the salt water variety as it is unsafe, and keep in mind that there is an inhalation risk when spreadin this substance). This substance cuts the shell of crawling insects and causes them to dehydrate and die within 48 hours. The bed bug will also be falling upside off that stainless steel bowl I am sure and landing on that DE a few times I am sure and getting cut up a little more each time. If need be I will pitch a tent, using velcro or duct tape around the zipper each night, since immature bed bugs are small that a pin head and can make it through a zipper.
In short I am going to “sleep ‘tight’ and I will not let the bed bugs bite. After all, I am a human and those things are bugs. They know that, which is why I am sure that these bed bugs are real sorry they got caught since now they can’t get away with it anymore. For you see, if someone has bed bugs, that means it is their own fault. Instead of feeling sorry for people who are telling horror stories about bed bugs, a common sense response would be to say to them, ‘you aren’t letting them bite you, are you?’ They do not have a ‘moral responsiblity’ to increase pesticide usage by spraying bed bugs, thus sparing their neighbours the ordeal of possible infection, but rather everyone has a moral responsibility to not allow a bed bug to bite them, because if the allow bed bugs to bite them, they will nest, then breed, and then move on in greater numbers to bite you neighbour, which would be your fault, since you did not sleep ‘tight’, but instead you just let some damned bed bug bite you, which was morally wrong, since now it will be biting someone else.
Respondents to his earlier article suggested that if he does not try and eliminate the bed bugs from his home, beyond a simple ring of DE around his bed legs (remember, he saw a bunch of them running from the bed together–this is not a small infestation), that he will spread them to his neighbors who will, in turn, use pesticides (the thing he is trying to avoid). He seems to miss the point, thinking that the bedbugs won’t bite him if they can’t bite him at night, and that they will simply walk away to the neighbors’.
If you do not have bed bugs now, the best thing to do since their is plague of pesticide resistant bed bugs now sweeping the country, is to prepare in advance by taking such steps as I described above, or other steps as seem sensible to you. In the days ahead, a bed bug will coming by to check out your pad, and when it finds out that it can’t bite you, it will shove off and move next door and bite your neighbout, provided that your neighbour is morally irresponsible, and decides to host and feed a nest of bed bugs, in which case you should not feel sorry for your neighbour or feel guilty for having sent that bed bug next door when it found out it couldn’t bite you, but rather you should give your neighbour shit for doing something so stupid as allowing themselves to be bitten by a bed bug, thus spreading the plague even more, instead of starving that bed bug to death, a solution for which a bed bug has no known resistance, nor could it ever develop such resistance.
So then “sleep ‘tight’ and whatever you do, don’t let those bed bugs bite,” for your neighbours are going to spraying bed bugs like mad now that the pesticides aren’t working anymore, which means that we are going to be putting up with a virulent plague for quite some time, and you might as well adapt to the new reality right now and start getting used to the idea that the world has suddenly changed for you. And if you hear about someone else who has been bitten by a bed bug, be sure to give them supreme shit for allowing that to happen, and just tell them the same thing our ancestors used to tell anyone who pissed them off by being bitten by a bed bug, thus keeping those around for another generation – ‘Sleep ‘tight’ and don’t let the bed bugs bite.’
Please understand that I am trying to be respectful of this fellow’s views, and I have no interest in any kind of online arguing. I have commented on his previous article, always respectfully. But I do think his view is misguided, and indeed, that it will lead to more pesticides, and not fewer, being used in the long run. I also think its dangerous not to fight bed bugs. This is my response, which I posted as a comment on the new article:
You should realize that while isolating your bed can keep them from biting you at night, bed bugs will also bite you in the daytime. They will bite you if you sit at a desk chair, or a dinner table, or on any other surface. And since they can live for between 12-18 months without feeding, they will stick around that long, waiting to bite you or anyone else who enters your home. If not treated, they will also spread to your neighbors. If your neighbors get them (or already have them), then you will be living with every chair, table, and bed in bowls of water indefinitely. I hope that your insect netting is completely enclosed, that you do not lean against any part of it, and that it has no gaps; mosquito netting is open and tucked under you, and does not keep out bed bugs (remember, the 1st instar nymphs are the size of a speck of dust).
You also need to know that if you saw “a bunch of bed bugs” running when you woke up in the night, you are likely to have a sizeable infestation.
Another alternative to pesticides (or to living this way forever) is heat treatment, which I would think you’d agree is a good alternative to pesticides and gassing. I believe there may be multiple companies doing this, but the one I’m aware of is ThermaPure ( http://www.thermapure.com/ps_bedbugs.php). It’s expensive and is not available in all areas (like NYC where I am–it’s illegal in NY State), but may be available in Portland. They heat the home to 150 degrees F for 4+ hours, and it kills nymphs, adults, and eggs.
We should all be campaigning that this be made legal in all localities since you’re right that we want to avoid pesticide-resistant bedbugs, but we also (most of us would agree) want to get rid of bed bugs. According to the CDC (check their website), bedbugs have been tested to carry Hepatitis B, and they have also been found to carry HIV infected blood for one hour; and though there have not been known cases of transmission, we know that these things can change. God forbid HIV or even Hepatitis B begin to be transmitted from one person to another in places where people share housing. If everyone allows their bed bugs to live in their homes, as you’re kind of suggesting we do, this is a possible outcome.
We’re all interrelated, here on earth, and your choosing to allow these bugs to continue living and spreading affects others too. When those others start spraying pesticides, you’ll have caused more damage, indirectly, because more spraying will have been done than if you yourself attempted to eliminate your infestation.
I’d like to have written more, because there’s a lot else that can be responded to. But I responded twice to the other article and once to this. I leave it to others to fill in the gaps by commenting on the Indymedia sites themselves.
The bottom line is this: the war on bedbugs must be fought with education, teamwork, and will involve destruction. If you’re serious about avoiding pesticides, seriously, start campaigning for thermal treatments to be legalized in your locality. Don’t develop elaborate theories about how an insect is going to get tired of waiting to bite you and go elsewhere (when they’ve been known to live, unfed, for 12-18 months). And do a bit more research: they bite in the daytime too. It doesn’t take much research to discover this.