National geographic on bedbugs / This Is London on bedbugs

by nobugsonme on October 20, 2006

in bed bug treatment, bed bug treatment in hotels, bed bugs, bed bugs and travel, california, england, london, san francisco, united kingdom, usa, videos of bed bugs

New article and video from National Geographic today. This is one of the more scientific videos we’ve seen, and true to National Geographic’s style, includes footage of “traumatic insemination” (the nasty bedbug’s form of procreation), as well as eerie footage of bedbugs crawling on a person in bed, in the dark.

Also footage of Lawrence Pong of the San Francisco Health Department calling a hotel to tell them they have an infestation. The resident of the hotel room apparently was unaware of the infestation, even though the building inspector called the infestation “heavy.” It was reported by someone who visited the resident.

A heavy infestation, Pong says, is a couple thousand bedbugs. He says San Francisco has as many as 12,000 current infestations, “and we know about a couple of them.”

A hotel resident (“James”) with an infestation is given help by San Francisco Public Health and pest control services; this help includes a new mattress, which immediately becomes infested, because no one thinks to cover the new mattress. Or maybe it wasn’t really “new.” Cut rate mattresses often aren’t. Anyway, it is far from new now. I guess Public Health Dept. in San Francisco did not know that their cleaning process and mattress replacement is useless if they do not provide James with strong vinyl mattress covers. (Some cloth ones are alright too, but they have to be designed to keep bedbugs out). Instead, his new mattress is immediately infested, because they did not protect it. Why doesn’t anyone say this in the video?! This is a teaching moment, people!

Since I gave out grades yesterday, National Geographic would nab an A for what is included (new footage and an inside-the-lair look at what public health departments do–not nearly enough, apparently), but I have to subtract serious points for not saying anything about the need for mattress covers, and then committing what I consider to be the cardinal sin of bedbug reportage: quoting that darned nursery rhyme. How many times a day do we have to hear that? C+.

The accompanying article is slightly better, but makes its own guffaws, including advice that travelers leave their suitcases outside for a day upon returning home (which is not likely to send bedbugs packing), and drying non-washables in a dryer for five minutes (which is hardly long enough to kill them). This advice comes from the U of K’s esteemed entomologist Michael Potter, who we’re fans of, so perhaps he’s done studies we are not aware of. But I would not rely on either of these methods to work, and have not heard them recommended anywhere else. And NG committed the cardinal sin again in the print article. Sheesh!

A second article from contains some interesting information, such as this:

In the 1880s it was estimated that over 75 per cent of Britain’s homes were infested. By the outbreak of World War II the level had diminished to around one in four houses, due to a combination of better housekeeping procedures, methods of eradication and an extensive programme of building and housing improvements during the 1930s.

And this amusing anecdote bound to send shivers to the spines of PETA members:

During the 19th century, gentlemen going on their Grand Tour would typically take a pig with them while staying at hotels – sending the animal up into the bed so it could be bitten, before getting in themselves.

Doesn’t seem like it would be very effective, since we’re told that bedbugs won’t bite a pet in the home if there’s a human living there. Go away for a weekend without your cat, however, and Fluffy might get some bites in your absence.

However, this article had one inaccuracy:

Nowadays specialist sprays by pest control companies are used to eradicate them. ‘People get really worried about this sort of thing but it can be treated easily,’ said Ms Kidman.

Elizabeth Kidman, a Cambridge Medical Entomologist, is a bit off: bedbugs may be treated easily, but they are not eradicated easily. Most homes need repeated professional treatments: eradicating bedbugs in one treatment is something we don’t hear about. And people living in multi-unit buildings may never eradicate their bedbugs, unless other adjacent units in the building are also treated. Kidman is cited as comparing them to lice, but I think all of us bedbuggers would agree, lice are much easier to get rid of. As are scabies, crabs, and other creepy crawlies that stay more-or-less on your person.

Bedbugs don’t; they’re off partying and having nasty bedbug sex and laying pinhead-sized in the crevices and cracks around your bedroom. Where you can’t see them.


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