What is it going to take to convince these people that bed bugs are not dust mites, or fleas?!?

by nobugsonme on March 6, 2008 · 2 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in the media, dust mites, london, united kingdom

I finally had a chance to listen to David Cain’s UK radio appearance last Friday via the BBC iPlayer interface (which requires a RealPlayer plugin; I’m on a Mac and I was able to listen; I am sure Windows users will have no trouble).

Go to this link.

Find “The Breakfast Show with JoAnne Good” in the list of programs and select the “Fri” button underneath the show title to select Friday’s program. You need a RealAudio plugin to hear it, so if it does not load automatically at this point, then click the button for assistance. I did, I installed it, it worked.

The show is 3 hours long and though David is only on at approximately an hour and a half into the program, there are some really interesting yet brief discussions of bed bugs leading up to that point.

So you don’t have to listen to the whole thing, consider scrolling through and finding at least some of these tidbits:

(Times are approximate minutes into the show, and may depend on the machinery with which you tune in.)

4:14 The topic of bed bugs is introduced: program host JoAnne talks about bed bugs as if they are dust mites

16:05 She mentions bed bugs again, and abandoned mattresses

17:45 Dean from Camden calls in about his real-life experience with bed bugs. He describes what clearly sounds like a bed bug infestation (he has spotted bed bugs in all the expected colors and sizes, and suffered many bites)

And then, unfortunately, “David” (not David Cain, mind you, but someone at the station), who thinks he knows more than the caller who actually had this horrific bed bug experience, attempts to correct Dean’s story, saying that this must have been fleas, not bed bugs, because “bed bugs eat dead skin.”

Actually, no, David-of-the-BBC (who JoAnne points out “was brought up with livestock”): you’re thinking about dust mites.

I can see David Cain will have his work cut out for him here, as far as spreading correct bed bug information.

Then, Dean goes on to explain what was involved in eradicating his bed bug infestation, and that they were indeed identified as bed bugs by pest control operators, and yet the radio folks nevertheless completely disregard his information and experience.

(I was throwing my hands up at this point.)

At some point, JoAnne starts to argue that since “this generation” has homes that are so warm, this is the source of the problem.

While it’s certainly true that central heating came very recently to Britain, it is also true that bed bugs survived quite well in the UK in the cold, dark days prior to World War II, not to mention the medieval period: and what could be colder or darker than the Dark Ages?

39:07 Again, more than 20 minutes later and a propos of nothing, announcer JoAnne declares she’s sure Dean had fleas, not bed bugs

46:00 John Kettley, the famous BBC weatherman, is asked by the host if he has ever encountered bed bugs while traveling, and he too appears to be thinking about dust mites when he replies that, of course, “everyone has bed bugs”

No! No! No! No! No!

They don’t.

1:08 JoAnne stops the presses to announce that, in fact, one of the show’s producers (Kate) had them (bed bugs, actual bed bugs, mind you) and confirms they are not the same as fleas (nor dust mites). She confirms she had to move out, get her place “fumigated,” “burn mattresses,” etc.

The JoAnne, once again, argues it’s the heating in British homes that is to blame.

At 1:27 David Cain comes on for about 10 minutes.

He brings a jar of bed bugs to show the hosts. He clarifies that bed bugs have not only risen by 250% in London, as JoAnne suggested, but in some areas of London, by as much as 1200% in the last three years. He also sets JoAnne Good straight about her “overheated homes” theory of the resurgence of bed bugs.

“Absolutely incorrect.”

Cain instead warns listeners about the fact that bed bugs can hitchhike from place to place and are spread by people moving them around. He clarifies the bed bug vs. dust mite difference for host Max, who still thinks “we all have them.” Cain also clues the audience in on the global nature of this resurgence in the last five years (a problem which has grown in that time, he says, from “an absolute rarity” to “a major problem”).

Astonishingly, and again, as if she did not listen to a word Dean said when he called in, JoAnne mentions his case to David Cain as that of someone describing flea bites. But the caller had bed bugs and his pest control operator knew it!

The topic of identifying what is biting one gave David Cain a chance to discuss signs of bed bugs, and how and where they can be detected.

Then Mohammed calls in to the show and describes the slow process of detecting the infestation in his flat. He woke up with swollen bites but did not understand the source. He thought they were mosquito bites. He then saw bugs he thought were ladybirds (ladybugs).

Only after he found black marks and blood stains in the bed did Mohammed approach his landlady, who ordered a solution off the internet “which didn’t work out.” Only then was David Cain called in. (It gets a little unclear at this point, sound quality-wise, but I think he said he eventually found out eight units in his building had been infested, for about 7-8 months.)

Of course, we knew David Cain would have much useful information to share. But by the time he came on the air, I was completely exhausted from the idiocy and misinformation that appeared to take up so much of the program to this point.

It’s a sign of how badly informed the general public is about bed bugs, I guess.

What makes me angry, though, is that anyone tuning in before David spoke would have been given so much useless misinformation about “bed bugs.” If they were not able to stick around for his appearance, the misinformation might stick with them.

We can imagine that many of those listeners who did not get the correct story on bed bugs would then not have bothered to tune in to the BBC television program Inside Out, which aired later that night, and which also featured David Cain talking about bed bugs.

After all, they’re in everyone’s bed, right? No big deal.

If you don’t trust my recap (which of course could not be entirely accurate since I kept throwing my arms up to the heavens and exclaiming with absolute horror), and you want to hear for yourself the train wreck that was the Breakfast Show (prior to David’s appearance, of course), you have one more day. The “Friday” program will be replaced Friday morning.

Enjoy.

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1 James Buggles March 7, 2008 at 2:37 am

Clueless journalists who don’t bother to conduct any research in advance of interviewing an expert. This surprises you, Nobugs?

2 nobugsonme March 7, 2008 at 10:53 am

No, James, not really. Especially not on anybody’s breakfast-time talk radio, anywhere.

But to listen to people tell their bed bug horror stories and to have this woman insisting over and over that things could not have been as the caller reported– well, it was just too much to take.

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