I’ve heard reports from various areas that haven’t seen many cases of bed bugs yet that Pest Control Operators often don’t know how to deal with them. We’ve heard this from readers near Yellowstone Park, and in Yorkshire, England. It makes sense of course, but the reasonable response is to do your homework.
When ceritifed PCOs publish mediocre advice about bed bugs in the newspaper, it makes me a bit worried. Anyone who writes for a newspaper probably has internet access and can do some research.
Readers of the Marcos Island (Florida) Sun Times were given some poor advice today in the Ask the Bug Guy column, by columnist and PCO Peter Masi, of West Coast Pest Control. A reader asked about the resurgence of bed bugs and how to deal with them. Masi said,
. . . for the first time in many years and I’m talking 30 or 40 years, bedbugs are back! Why?
No one seems to know.
They were the scourge of the hotel/motel industry for years and back then, DDT was the cure. Of course, you can’t use that now!
First, make sure they are, in fact, bedbugs and not lice. They do leave the same type of marks when they decide to eat someone’s blood.
This all sounds rather awful, doesn’t it? I would try using the same powdered insecticide they use for lice. We know that will be safe as long as you follow the directions to the letter.
I’m not a certified PCO, but I have a few problems with this.
First, there will be other evidence (besides bites–which I don’t agree will look the same as lice bites) if you’re infested with lice: lice and nits, for example. On your person. Whereas people can go months without seeing a bed bug. Signs like little black specks and cast shells may come before a bed bug sighting.
Also, people primarily need to treat their heads with insecticides, for lice (using something like this), or their bodies, in the case of body lice. You might also need to use powder in the home, and this is what Masi seems to be referring to. But he should know that bed bugs don’t simply infest mattresses anymore (though this was more common back in the day.) Instead, they infest baseboards, ceiling and electrical fixtures, floorboards, bed frames, and the insides and bottoms of bedroom furniture, among other things.
What’s more, they spread quickly. It would be much better advice for people to have a PCO come out and inspect, to see if it really is a light problem. If you’ve been bitten for more than one day running, you probably have multiple bed bugs, and who knows how many. Very small infestations may clear up with cursory treatments (such as Masi suggests) and thorough vacuuming and laundering. But most people who think they have a small infestation because they’ve “only seen a few bugs” have a real infestation that needs prompt and careful treatment.
But what really annoyed me was this:
I’ll bet most folks on Marco Island will opt to just buy a new mattress. They’ll deliver the new one and take away the old one. We are an affluent community and I just can’t visualize most of you taking the time and painstaking effort to exterminate bedbugs.
The problem with the Bug Guy’s advice here is that while the author clearly understands bed bugs take time and painstaking effort to get rid of, nevertheless just finished giving poor advice as to how and do that.
And on top of that, Masi encouraged people with bed bugs to buy a new mattress from a company that delivers new mattresses in the same trucks in which they cart away the old ones, and he encouraged them to send their mattress away in the truck with the delivery guy. With these words, Masi provided a solution that is not guaranteed to get rid of bed bugs (since homes, as well as mattresses, are usually infested). It is likely that people will purchase new mattresses and these will become infested too, if bed bugs are still in the home.
More importantly, Masi also just gave lots of Marcos Islanders a nice recipe for spreading bed bugs to others. Since we know that one common method by which people get bed bugs is from new mattresses delivered in trucks carrying infested used mattresses, I would not encourage anyone to purchase a mattress from a company that does this, if they can avoid it.
I absolutely would not encourage anyone who suspected or knew they had bed bugs to send their mattress away in a delivery truck. If you have bed bugs, you can protect your mattress and keep it. Or, if you decide you want to get rid of it (preferably at the end of treatment, when a new mattress is less likely to be exposed), for Pete’s sake, destroy the mattress by slashing it up and leaving it on the curb (being careful to wrap it tightly in plastic so as not to spread bugs on the way out the door). Please do not expose other people to your problem. It’s as irresponsible as exposing them to a contagious disease: and I don’t mean the flu. Think mono. Or worse.
If keeping others from suffering does not motivate you, then give a thought to the fact that if bed bugs keep spreading due in part to carelessness. If you’re not careful to keep bed bugs to yourself, then once they’re gone, bed bug karma says you will get them again in time.
Unfortunately, so will lots of other people who were more careful than you were. Most people, I should add, get bed bugs through no fault of their own. But we all should take steps to avoid causing others to suffer needlessly.
So called “bug experts” should be more careful to give good advice; PCOs who know bed bugs and have been exposed to them are very cautious.