more lousy advice about bed bugs

by nobugsonme on December 2, 2006 · 8 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, heat, information and help, new york, pesticides, tools and weapons, usa

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.

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1 mgdecombe December 2, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Quite honestly, I think the root of his flawed reasoning has a close relative that is promoted in other bed bug discussions- that bed bugs are resistant to pesticides anyway, and unless we can use DDT, the whole operation is futile, so might as well just isolate oneself…

I am NOT claiming this is valid thinking, just commenting that this is an extreme extension of the argument that it is futile to treat with anything but DDT.

Having said that, I think that few people take IndyMedia very seriously.

2 Sean December 2, 2006 at 11:28 pm

Interesting …

I would like to see the documented proof that bed bugs are resistant to “pesticides.”

In fact, I know that they are not.

Prior to the 1970s bed bug strains were beginning to show resistance to DDT.

Currently there are strains that are showing resistance to Pyrethroids.

However, we have a large number of pesticides that they are showing no resistance to.

As a pest control industry we are showing very good success rates with erradicating bed bugs.

The largest obstacle in the battle against bed bugs is not the chemicals available …. it is the lack of cooperation from clients and incorrect applications by technicians.

Sean
Entomologist / Pest Professional
http://www.thebedbugresource.com

3 Howard December 19, 2006 at 8:34 pm

You are 100% correct about heat for bed bug control.

I have a pest control company in Florida. I was trained (I use this statement very very loosely) by Thermapure. We basically had to learn on our own through trial and error. I must state to you that our relationship with Thermapure is no longer.
We have been doing heat in Florida for wood destroying organisms like Drywood Termites, Powder post beetles and Wood borers for about 5 years(we are talking hundreds of jobs) both for my company as well as a sub-contractor for companies like Massy Services, Truly Nolen and Orkin.

Treating bed bugs using heat was first done in Florida by another pest control operator who got out of the heat business. There is an article in Pest Control Magazine some years back documenting his treatment and what he discovered. My company has probably done 25 treatments using heat to kill bed bugs over the last 18 months. All were 100%successful. All but one only required one treatment. After that one treatment which required we heat a second time, (probably the 5th or 6th treatment we did) we incorporated a limited amount of pesticides (I hate that word, I prefer, product or material) to basically create an island which the bed bugs are trapped on. The area is heated to surface temps in the 150 degree range and held for min of 3 hours. All are dead, including the eggs. It is expensive, the prep is relatively the same as with conventional treatments except for fire sprinklers which are not that big a deal and you don’t have to throw out the mattress.
One thing puzzles me though, I had someone contact me from New York several years ago in reference to treating a home with heat for Wood Borers. I contacted the state governmental agency that regulates pest control to see if I could use heat and this state regulator basically welcomed me with open arms. (We did not end up doing the work, we discovered the infestation was inactive).
I believe heat is the best way to treat for bed bugs, but it is not preventative. I know you know that there are no products available that can prevent bed bugs. However, some bed bug problems can be avoided in a hotel. I am sure you are aware that some pest control companies are training hotel housekeeping and maintenance how to inspect for bed bugs. The idea obviously is to find the problem, quarantine the room, and treat. This does make alot of sense and the reality at this point is that it is our only option to at least prevent some of the problem from spreading.

However, I think (this will start out sounding self serving but hear me out) a licensed pest control professional should be making the inspections. After all, this is what we do for a living, we are trained and educated professionals in this field. You would not give mechanic (not that mechanics are not intellengent people) a few hours training and tell him he could now do surgery.
The other reason is that…in my experience there is a tremendous amount of turnover in that part of the hotel industry so that could affect the quality and frequency that the inspection should be done.

4 nobugsonme December 20, 2006 at 12:15 am

Howard,
I agree that licensed (and experienced!) professionals should be inspecting.
I hope you read this response, because I have some questions for you about heat–since you’re the first real live PCO who uses heat to kill bed bugs that I’ve encountered (well, virutally anyhow).
Two questions if you don’t mind?
1/ How does heat treatment work in one apartment of a multi-unit building? (This may vary depending on whether other units are infested.) I’m wondering if you offer guarantees in this case.
2/ Do you or does anyone you know use heat to treat bed bugs in NYC? We were told (someone asked Thermapure, I think) that the process is illegal here. But lots of people are keen to try it.
It’s darned expensive, but so is throwing away furniture, moving, or treating over and over using traditional methods.

The multi-unit dwelling problem in many cities is key: landlords typically are treating one or two units without REALLY knowing if others are infested. A cursory and even a careful inspection just don’t always tell us if they’re there.

5 Bugalina December 20, 2006 at 9:53 am

My extermination, for a small cape cod home, maybe 2000 sq.ft. cost $3400.00. Then the same company charged me $1800.00 to spray a fifteen percent pyrethrin dust into a Storage POD that was in my driveway, they sprayed it twice, $900.00 a shot. The $3400.00 was for two treatments, each lasting no more than two hours. They used mostly an aerosol called KONK. They did not use Drione. They sprayed with Suspend, they did not use Gentrol. I have left the house empty and the POD is in a storage facility. So in total I gave this company $5200.00, I left the house because I continued to get bitten and they refused to come back because they didn’t “see” any bed bugs. Before I left I had Orkin come in and spray for a cost of $900.00 . I must go back into the house in January. I am of, course terrified and I am mistrustful of exterminators. I only wish that Sean and Howard could do work in NY. I was contacted by a nice man who is an exterminator and he gave me informatio about Vikaning the POD. The problem is that I have to transfer all of the contents into a U -Haul truck and then drive it several hours away. I was told it would cost a minmimum of $1500.00, maybe a little more. This cost does not trouble me if in fact it will guarantee a complete kill of any bugs in my furniture. My furniture has been in this POD since last May. I have been contacted by an exterminator on this board who is angry with me for not being fond of exterminators. I apologized to him but begged him to understand how hard my husband and I work for our money and how devastated we have been emotionally and finanancially. I don’t understand why this bug is being permitted to spread at such a rapid rate. People who have bed bugs have their lives ripped out from under them..Deb

6 Howard December 20, 2006 at 12:51 pm

Nobugsonme,

Two things in my experience, affect the success of a bed bug treatment (regardless of the method) in a multi family situation.
First, all surrounding units MUST at least be inspected (in some cases it may be wise to do some sort of treatment in an adjoining unit(s) even if no bed bugs are found). I realize that this does not guarantee that even the most experienced and professional inspector may not miss something, but not taking this vital step will pretty much guarantee failure of any treatment rendered if there is problem in another adjoining unit.

We will not contract to do any bed bug work in a multi family or hotel situation where we are prohibited from at least inspecting adjoining units.

The second problem in the multi family situation is (not so much in hotels) people LIVE in these units and they have …. well, stuff. In some cases lots of stuff. Lots of stuff means lots of places for bed bugs to hide. Even heat, as effective as it is, cannot penetrate very deeply into articles with density, like a box of books or a filing cabinet. You can be successful in these situations only if ALL the stuff is inspected, removed from the treatment area and treated when necessary. Treatment of people’s “stuff” is a whole other situation.
When we are talking about things like, stored items in boxes or items in drawers other than clothes, if the infestation is severe enough, I would recommend removing articles and having them fumigated with Vikane while unit(s) are being treated. Fumigation, although not practical in most multi family situations, is probably the most effective treatment for bed bugs.

7 Howard December 20, 2006 at 9:21 pm

Deb/Bugalina,

I am sorry that you had to deal with that kind of pest control operator. It is companies like that give our industry a bad name. You may want to contact the state about your problem.

8 Steve January 13, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Howard,

I’m looking into the thermapure pest license. Since you’ve had some experience, would you be willing to discuss privately?

If so please contact me steve@arizona-enviro.com

Thanks

Steve V

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