This account of bed bugs in New Jersey by Meg Nugent, in yesterday’s Times-Ledger, paints a balanced picture.
It opens with a typical bed bug experience:
It was six months before Joan could finally go to sleep without a night light.
“I was convinced they were going to be on me — I pray to God I won’t ever have to say they’re back in my house,” explains the West Orange resident, who’s established some new rules to keep the home she shares with husband Paul and Mark, their college-age son, safe from another invasion of bed bugs.
One thing I’ve gathered from speaking to reporters, and reading accounts other reporters have written, is that some of the things we bed bug sufferers typically say sound quite insane to reporters, and even some bed bug researchers. As crazy as this woman’s account may sound to some, her obvious fear of bed bugs is based on a traumatic experience she’s suffered, and sleeping with a nightlight for six months is not a sign this woman is crazy. It’s a reasonable reaction to what she experienced.
She’s typical, from what I hear. And accounts such as hers, heard and read repeatedly, may eventually make that point clear to those who don’t know bed bugs.
The same woman is also quoted as saying she leaves luggage bagged in her car for a few days before bringing it inside:
For one thing, anybody returning from college or a trip away isn’t allowed to bring luggage and clothing into the house until it’s first been bagged in heavy-duty plastic and left inside the family car — which would be deliberately parked in abundant, hot sunshine — for a day or two.
“It guarantees us that if we’re coming home with anything at all, it will be cooked” (translation: dead), according to Joan, who doesn’t want her last name published because of the social stigma often attached to bed bugs.
I have to say that though lots of people are doing this and some professionals are recommending it, I think a thorough visual inspection of every item and every crevice is also required after doing this. And I still would not say the items were guaranteed to be bug-free. Cars don’t get that hot (year round, and especially in New Jersey) to absolutely kill bed bugs. People have many times reported failure to kill bed bugs using hot cars or “leaving things in the snow for a month,” and while we can’t comment on whether they did or didn’t kill the bed bugs (which might have been living undetected in the home previously), I would still exercise every caution. But I also note that since the woman has no reason to think the items are infested, this (plus visual inspection) is probably reasonable.
On the other hand, if you knew you’d encountered bed bugs, I’d take much more extreme measures.
Also interesting in the article, Richard Cooper of Cooper Pest is quoted as saying, confidently, that 55 days with no bed bugs or signs or bites, means bed bugs are gone:
“You need 55 days of bug-free, bite-free time to know the problem’s been resolved,” says Cooper.
I am not sure why 55, but that’s what the man said. People who are eager to unpack sealed, washed clothes, there you have it.
Note: if you do not react to bites, you may still have bed bugs, well-hidden. After all, people who don’t respond to bites may take ages to discover the problem. Is 55 days enough time for there to be ample evidence for every PCO — not just the highly experienced ones — to inspect and declare a home bug free? Let’s hope so!