Recent Surge in Bed Bug Populations!

Hotels and hostels have been hit the hardest by the recent upsurge in bed bug populations and many fear these tiny guests will seriously hurt business. In 2003, a Mexican businessman sued the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in New York after he suffered numerous bed bug bites on his neck, arms, and torso while sleeping in the property. The owner of the hotel settled the suit out of court this year, all but confirming that the bed bugs had infested the hotel just off of central park. If hotels and hostels posh and low-priced alike face the scourge, what is causing this swell in bed bound insects?

Entomologists are not sure what has brought the recent rise in bed bug populations. Some believe that bugs have been on the rise ever since the U.S. reduced the usage of powerful pesticides that once kept insects at bay. In the 1940s and 1950s, fumigators liberally sprayed DDT filled insecticides in hotels, homes and gardens, almost eliminating bed bug populations across the country. In the 1960s, when scientists discovered that DDT is profoundly toxic to humans and animals, the chemical was removed from pesticides. To date scientists have not developed an equally effective bed bug killer.

The bugs of the Boudoir are on their way back.

But what are these creatures, anyway? About the size of a lentil or an appleseed, the insect is found in temperate climates throughout the world and has been known since ancient times. Bedbugs mainly move about at night, with peak attack period about an hour before dawn. Attracted by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide, the insect punctures the skin of its host with two hollow tubes. With one tube it injects saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its victim. After feeding about five minutes, the bug quietly returns to hiding place. Although bedbugs can live for up to 18 months without feeding, they usually feed every five to ten days.

While they are often associated with filth, they are attracted by exhaled carbon dioxide, not by dirt. Indeed, the cleanliness of an environment has no effect on bed bugs. To detect a bed bug infestation, look for dark stains on bedding, which are the mark of the insect’s fecal stains. Occasionally, an engorged bedbug will be accidentally crushed, resulting in a smear of blood and a sickly sweet pheromone scent, which can also be detected in the ambient air in a severe infestation.

Thankfully, while bedbugs are known to carry diseases in their bodies, including plague and hepatitis B, they do not transmit disease and are not regarded as a medical threat! Still, the thought of them will send shivers down the spine of even the burliest lumberjack and they must be stopped. Here’s how to get rid of them:

  • Call an exterminator.
  • Use fruit and vegetable pesticides, made of a mixture of pyrethins and canola oil—these are safe for humans and pets.
  • Steam treatment of mattresses and furniture
  • In preparation for treatment, vacuum thoroughly, launder everything possible, empty all furniture containing potential hiding places (i.e. bookshelves, desks) and leave them open so they can be sprayed.

Good luck.

All materials on this page by Julia Steiman