Don’t let the bed bugs bite, a worldwide epidemic


February 1, 2012
Tracey L. Chavous, CHHC
Health and Wellness Staff Writer
Healthy Living

The old saying, “Goodnight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” is not as funny as it once sounded.  Today, sleepers across the globe are focusing in on the wingless insects as an expensive threat to their proverbial “sleeping like a baby” scenarios. Bed bugs are kn

own scientifically as Cimex lectularius (Cimicidae) and feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals. Hence, these bugs find comfort in taking residence in our homes, particularly in places where we sleep such as beds and especially in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, sofas, lounge chairs and upholstered furniture.  Bed bugs like to party at night while most people are sleeping.  Their bites are typically painless, so they are more apt to hide in small crevices of furniture during the day, therefore adding to the time it takes to locate or notice them.

Researchers have discovered that bed bugs were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the pesticide DDT began in the 1940s and 1950s. However, they remained most prevalent in other countries. Some factors that have contributed to the resurgence of these bugs include increased international travel around the world as well as surges in immigration and the use of lower strength pesticides in some countries.

Other important factors to consider, according to research found on, includes “some common vehicles of spreading such as overnight stays in infested quarters, the purchase of infested furniture (rental furniture, used/second hand furniture, reconditioned mattresses etc.), the gaining of discarded items that are infested, and migration of bed bugs from one infested dwelling to another in multi-occupancy settings (apartments, college housing, medical facilities and senior communities).” This highlights the 500% increase in the return of bed bugs to the United States; which has resulted in the development of unique interventions including bed bug conferences with hotel industries, rental management corporations, airline carriers and the like.  In addition, bed bug task forces have been created to help states and licensed exterminators with the most updated information, strategies and products used to eradicate these fast moving insects.


The long-term effects of a bed bug infestation can be debilitating, as a Maryland resident shared recently.  “This was a five thousand dollar experience!” ranted Ben, after his bed bug incident.  When his girlfriend could not find the cause of a rash on her arms and topical medications that were prescribed were ineffective, Ben searched for answers.  Then about two months later, Ben saw a tiny bug move along his bed of white sheets, so he grabbed it, and put it in a glass.  He did an immediate search of its body characteristics on the internet and was presented with a diagram of and a litany of information about Cimex lectularius. Considering himself an expert after the time consuming experience, Ben offered several key points to consider when attempting to exterminate the tiny creatures:

  • Avoid moving things around in an effort to clean them away, because they will spread to other areas quickly.
  • DO NOT try to exterminate bed bugs with household products; these are traditionally ineffective at eradicating the insects.  They can survive up to 18 months on one bite; therefore, contacting a licensed and insured exterminator quickly who has had experience with bed bugs is paramount.
  • Make sure the treatment plan you obtain lasts over a year.
  • Never store anything under the bed (shoes, clothes, blankets).
  • Often home or apartment furniture such as beds and dressers must be completely removed and destroyed; this costly process is generally necessary to prevent a re-infestation.

Ben admits that he is naturally an ultra clean and basic guy but this expensive process not only hit his pocket but his mind as well.  He now only buys lightly colored sheets that he constantly washes.  He invested several hundred dollars in specialty pillow case covers as well as a bed bug tested mattress case that he found online.   In the end, he threw out his bed and all of his linens and also dry cleaned all of his clothes. Ben basically started over and even moved into another apartment in his building after the extermination process was complete.

Although some might assume that these bugs appear under not so sanitary conditions or only with people with poor hygiene.  It is a known fact that these bugs thrive just as well in cleaner conditions as well. Bed bugs are resilient and don’t discriminate.  Much of this infestation resurgence is due to lack of public awareness.  Be proactive if you suspect that you might have bed bugs or know someone who might have them as well.  Word of mouth is the best tool.  Ask questions when traveling home or abroad, moving, when buying furniture, luggage and clothing. Bite back by asking questions and doing your research!


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DC Spotlight Health Writer

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