Educating people about bed bugs is the first step to curbing their spread.
We heard over a year ago that the Washington D.C. Department of Health had filmed a bed bug Public Service Announcement, but we hadn’t seen it. The recent Michigan radio PSAs prompted me to google the DC ad spots, and lo and behold:
(Warning: some of the bed bug graphics may be upsetting to those with current or past infestations.)
If embedded videos don’t work for you, click here to view the video on YouTube.
There is some good information presented here.
However, in addition to the melodramatic presentation (the kids chanting “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” and the horror movie music give me the heebie-jeebies), I was troubled by some of the recommendations made in this D.C. Department of Health video.
First, the advice to inspect motel rooms when you check in, and inspect luggage before you leave a motel, is not really sufficient.
Advice is then given on what signs to look for, but the photos of eggs and fecal stains on a mattress or fecal stains near a light switch may be misleading. Many people encounter bed bugs and see no obvious signs. Fecal stains may be small in number and bed bug harborages may be well hidden.
In addition, the advice that the use of over-the-counter sprays “can reduce bed bugs” is not untrue. However, this and the subsequent statement that “sometimes professional treatment may be necessary to rid your home of bed bugs” may encourage viewers to go down the road of self-treating bed bugs, which is problematic for a number of reasons. (Our FAQ outlines why DIY bed bug treatment is not a good idea for most, and offers suggestions for those who must self-treat.)
Primarily, self-treatment for bed bugs can be problematic because it often is not sufficient, and can be harmful to residents. Sometimes self-treatment can cause bed bugs to spread, or have repellent effects (which are not desirable). Another issue with self-treatment is that people who try and deal with their own bed bug problems are usually not talking to their landlord or building manager and neighbors, if any. If there are attached neighbors, there needs to be a coordinated effort at inspecting and treating all infested units, or bed bugs can persist indefinitely.
Presenting self-treatment with OTC sprays as the first suggestion for treatment is also problematic because most people do not have any way of assessing product effectiveness or appropriate methods of application. The video suggests consumers purchase only sprays with a label that indicates bed bugs and that non-toxic sprays are available.
Anyone in the know can tell you that products pushed for bed bug treatment may not have been tested on bed bugs. Some make claims which are inflated or untrue. Some are sufficient as contact killers but have no residual. Repeatedly spraying a pesticide that only kills on contact will very rarely eliminate a bed bug problem. Meanwhile, bed bug infestations are able to grow and spread.
Another concern with the PSA’s instructions is that viewers are told to “wrap the mattress and box spring in a plastic cover” and “place bed legs in water”. Wrapping a mattress in plastic will do nothing if it is not sealed in an airtight manner. Some who do not understand an encasement is being called for may try to use a plastic mattress bag, and sleeping on such a mattress without puncturing an airtight seal will be very difficult. Cheap encasements not specifically designed and tested to keep bed bugs out may be ineffective, as they often have gaps where at zipper end stops — if used, these need to have end stops sealed in tape and checked regularly. And placing bed legs in water may keep bed bugs from climbing onto or off of the bed, but this may also keep bed bugs in the bed frame indefinitely. (We recommend ClimbUp Interceptors, which do require a small outlay — about $20 per bed — but are much more useful, since they both prevent bed bugs climbing onto or off of the bed, and tell you that this is what is occurring.) Our FAQ on protecting/isolating the bed explores various approaches to dealing with beds.
At over six minutes, this is too long for a commercial-length spot. I wonder if shorter PSAs exist, and also whether you’ve seen this or another PSA aired in the DC area?
I am glad that DC is trying to educate its populace about how to detect and get rid of bed bugs, but I think they need to continue working on what information is presented, and how.