Total Pageviews

Popular Posts

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bedbugs, a Modern Plague

     Bedbugs have invaded thousands of Philadelphia homes and institutions
 and the situation is serious. Philadelphia, in fact, is one of the worst cities in
 the nation for bedbugs. Don’t ask me why our fair city is plagued with these
 creatures. Is there something in the water here, or do Philadelphians have a
 special problem that people in other cities do not have?

  The pest-control company, Orkin, compiled a list of the 50 worst American cities for bed bugs and Philadelphia has been ranked as number nine. Orkin based its ranking on the number of bed bug treatments they performed on residences and businesses in urban areas between 2015 and 2016.
   “We have more people affected by bed bugs in the United States now than ever before. They were virtually unheard of in the U.S. 10 years ago,” Orkin’s Entomologist Ron Harrison told CBS3.  
      Bedbugs begin life as microscopic entities and then, depending on how
 much human blood they consume, they increase in size and weight until,
 in some instances, they become as large as a small or medium sized cockroach.
 Bedbugs do not fly but they climb or jump onto things, mainly wooden and
cloth surfaces where they then take great delight in laying their despicable eggs.

      If they happen to find a home in your mattress, they will bite you during
 the night. They bite in clusters of three, meaning you will notice three little
 dots or bruise like blemishes on your skin. One bite is never enough for
 these creatures although they can live off their first 3-bite meal for a long
 time before their blood lust returns. It doesn’t take all that long for them
 to grow from micro hard to see bugs into significant creepy crawlers.
   Welcome to my nightmare, as a famous rocker once intoned.  

      These athletic pests can even jump on you and hitch a ride on your
 jacket or sweater and then jump off later when you enter a new house
 or residence. More spaces to colonize, after all. When they park themselves
 in a new place they begin their cycle of destruction all over again, laying
 eggs and hiding in mattresses, woodwork, sofas and curtains until something
 or someone exposes them. Then you’re likely to see them exit en masse, often
 in large shocking streams that rival the congestion of ant farms.

      One does not have to be dirty or a lowlife sleaze to get bedbugs. Bedbugs
were common in colonial America and throughout Europe. In many cases
 people learned to live with them. Growing up, I had elderly aunts tell me
 before going to bed, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” as if bedbugs were sweet
 little things with smiley faces and antennas made of chocolate that helped
 you sleep.  I had never seen a bedbug as a kid so I had no idea what my
 aunts were talking about. Ticks, bees, spiders and moths I knew, but
 bedbugs seemed to be a Grimm’s Fairy Tale concoction. 
   Until I moved to the city…

   When my friend Sean showed me a bedbug for the first time I could
 barely make out its shape it was so small. We were moving furniture
into his new house when he went to move his bed headboard and a bed
 bug crawled out. A swarm of bugs followed, much larger in size. 
 Sean was so disgusted he went into the bathroom to wash his
 hands and exclaim loudly before the mirror: “Oh no, not bed bugs!”

  Sean is such a clean fanatic that people entering his house 

are required to take off their shoes and put on special booties 
so that they won’t dirty up his floors.  When he had a 
number of contractors working on his kitchen last spring he
 made them all take off their boots and put on these wrap
 around booties that tie up in fancy bows. 

      Shockingly, the contractors complied like little children.  
Half of Sean’s living room furniture is covered up in plastic so 
every time you sit down in his house you hear a series of crinkles.
Generally he hates having people into his house because he
 equates people with dirt. 

   So how did someone this clean get bedbugs?

       He got them from living in Philadelphia, of course, because at any point
during his travels about the city he could have touched a railing or
 banister or even brushed up against someone’s curtains or coat when
 an eager to jump bed bug leaped on him and hitched a ride back to
 his house where it then deposited its eggs.

    Sean, of course, had to throw out the bed’s headboard but this was
 only the beginning. He did a thorough house check and found small
colonies of bugs in some uncovered pieces of furniture. He waged
 an expensive, never ending war: he sprayed, vacuumed, washed and
 rewashed and then he wrapped the as yet uncontaminated pieces of
furniture in air tight plastic wrap so the bedbugs couldn’t claim it as
 their own. Some of his good furniture had to be thrown away.

    Bedbugs have only recently become a city plague 
because over a decade ago there was an effective killer spray
 that killed them in aPhiladelphia minute. This powerful spray
 nicked the problem in the bud and saved countless valuable
 pieces of furniture from the trash heap. Then there was the
 "awful" discovery that the killer componentin this spray
 was DDT, a cancer causing agent.  The effective, miracle
spray was then banned with nothing of any value to replace it despite
the rash of so called sprays that promise to do the job just as effectively.

   All lies, of course.

       As The Daily Caller reported, “…Why are bed bugs back?
Though they’ve been sucking humans’ blood since at least ancient
 Greece, bed bugs became virtually extinct in America following the
 invention of pesticide DDT. There were almost no bed bugs in the
United States between World War II and the mid-1990s. Around
when bed bugs started their resurgence, Congress passed a major
pesticides law in 1996 and the Clinton EPA banned several classes
of chemicals that had been effective bed bug killers.”

  Thank you, Bill Clinton.

 The new sprays, as Sean discovered, do little or nothing because
 they simply aren’t strong enough. It also doesn’t help that bedbugs
 go into winter/cold weather hibernation, a despicable deep coma
sleep in which they dream of sucking blood once the warm weather
 approaches. In the hot weather, they reemerge unless you do the heat 
ventilation route. Heat remediation requires only one treatment. It 
utilizes fans and heaters to raise the temperature of the infested 
area to 120 degrees. The temperature is maintained for hours to
 ensure that the bed bugs and the eggs are killed. This is a cumbersome 
and expensive process.
        Homeless shelters are notorious for bed bugs despite the fact that they
 undergo periodic exterminations.  The constant influx of new people
 in shelters all but guarantees new incarnations of jumping bugs eager
 to inhabit a fresh piece of wood in which to build their nasty nation of
 blood sucking bottom feeder vampires.
       The most troubling part of this story is that there’s no solution to the
 bedbug problem unless we bring back the all powerful DDT spray.
Some cities and municipalities are considering doing this because their
 bed bug problems are that great. It’s sad to think that  DDT may be
 the only real answer, especially in our hometown where bed bugs
seem to be everywhere, most notably on the coat of the person
sitting next to you on the Frankford-Market El. 

      Today, Sean is bedbug free but the experience has made him
even more of a clean fanatic. Visitors to his home, even those
 contractors I mentioned, have to go through a doubled up vetting
 process. While Sean hasn’t gone to the extreme length of asking
 people to remove their clothing or demand that they put on double
 booties and gloves, I fully expect that this will be the case if he ever
 gets bed bugs again.