Smart Spending: How to avoid, cope with bedbugs

Smart Spending: How to avoid, cope with bedbugs

Associated Press Sat Oct 02, 2010, 05:24 PM EDT

NEW YORK — As bedbugs relentlessly re-enter American life, it’s increasingly important to know how to avoid them, because ridding your home of them can cost thousands of dollars.

Bedbugs don’t carry disease, they aren’t likely to infest your kitchen or attack during the day and only 10 or 15 percent of people are allergic to their bites.

But an infestation can be devastating, even aside from the ick factor. Most of the ways we respond to insects are ineffective against bedbugs. Some of our most expensive possessions, like plush furniture, may not be treatable. And the cost of clearing them out of an apartment starts in the hundreds of dollars and runs up from there.

Here are some tips on keeping bedbugs from working their way into your home and belongings — and coping with it if they do show up.

TRAVEL WITH CARE: Bedbugs don’t discriminate when seeking a home; they’re just as happy in a five-star resort as a youth hostel. So, above all, you need to rethink how you travel.

As soon as you arrive any new place you’re staying, Missy Henriksen, spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association, suggests checking your bed and mattress for drops of dried (human) blood or (bug) excrement. Bedbugs — which are brown and about the size of lentils — love cracks and crevices so check mattress seams and joints and cracks in the bed frame..

Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an urban entomologist with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University, says the ideal tool is a transit fare card — a metro card in New York or Washington, a BART card in San Francisco, or any card thinner than a credit card. Just run it along the cracks and seams to reveal bugs.

Once you’re ready to settle in, keep up your guard: Put your luggage on a rack and if you must take your clothes out of the suitcase, hang them, says Russ Horton, national technical director for HomeTeam Pest Defense in Dallas. Don’t use drawers, which are full of bedbug hiding spots. Place dirty clothes in a sealed bag and right back in your suitcase so bugs don’t have a chance to latch on.

When you get home, wash and dry all your clothes — even things you didn’t wear, says Horton. Henriksen also advises vacuuming out your luggage.

SECOND THOUGHTS ON SECONDHAND: Buying used items like furniture and clothing can save you some cash, but you don’t want to end up spending more in the long run because the items came with bedbugs.

Gangloff-Kaufmann strongly suggests never buying a used couch because there is no way to inspect its insides, where bedbugs can thrive. And Horton suggests making thorough inspections before buying any mattresses or bedding, even new.

“There is no 100 percent safe zone,” he says, though he concedes that used items are more likely to be infested.

Be sure to seal anything you do buy secondhand in a plastic bag and take it straight to a professional cleaner. Increasingly popular are mattress covers (remember to cover the box spring separately), which — like a sealed plastic bag — act as both prevention and treatment: If the bugs are already inside, they’ll suffocate, and new ones can’t get in to take up residence. New York City’s health department recommends keeping the cover on for at least a year.

LOCATION & TREATMENT: There’s no guarantee you’re ever “safe” from bedbugs — especially now that they’re showing up in offices, coin-operated laundries, schools and major stores, and they’re crawling from one apartment to the next in large buildings. But a few places are less likely to host them, like kitchens and bathrooms, mostly because they like carpeting, Henriksen says.

Decluttering your house and getting rid of shag rugs may help limit bedbugs’ potential hiding spots and ease the process of getting rid of them if they do appear.

But traditional means of fending off insects — like keeping a clean house — are essentially irrelevant because it’s your blood they’re after. They move quickly so they’re happy to spend their days inside electronics, wallpaper, cracked plaster, even books, as long as humans are nearby at night.

Getting rid of bedbugs often requires a combination of tactics. Henriksen and Horton suggest turning to a licensed and experienced professional who can provide a detailed plan. Such services can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to thousands, depending on the extent of the infestation and how large a space you’re trying to clear, Henriksen says. Some work places now address bedbug infestations in their employee assistance programs, so check around for support: Even if it’s emotional and not financial, it could help.

If you’re going to try to go it alone, or you need to remove bedbugs from just one item, the four main treatments are freezing, steaming, applying pesticides or heating items to 113 degrees Fahrenheit or more for at least half an hour.

— Freezing: If the item in question is small enough, put it in the freezer for at least a month to kill bugs and their eggs, then wash it thoroughly. In regions where it’s available, try new rapid-freezing carbon dioxide technology.

— Pesticides: Some chemicals will help, but they require repeated applications because none kill bedbug eggs, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. In any case, make sure the pesticide you’re considering is meant for bedbugs, and read all labels. Also, as always, use pesticides only as instructed.

— Steam cleaning: Use a portable clothes steamer to treat smaller items. Professional services will use larger steamers if hired to clear bugs out of your home.

— Heat: Put clothes, shoes, toys and anything else that will not be ruined by the tumbling and heat in your clothes dryer on high for at least 30 minutes.

You’ve probably thought of several common household items — the couch and the TV, say — that you can’t treat one of these ways or by sealing in plastic for a year. Those items you may need to replace if they’re badly infested, experts say — unless your area is lucky enough to see a repeat of this year’s record heat.

The newest all-time high in Los Angeles, for instance, was 113 degrees: Just the ticket.

Florida Bedbug Control Services


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One Response to “Smart Spending: How to avoid, cope with bedbugs”

  1. Chair Pads · Says:

    bed frames that are based on steel would give you a more durable bed and a bed that last longer -.,

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