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Bedbugs – A Sign Of Hard Times

By James Donahue

“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

That is an old adage that stems from the days of the Great Depression. It may have been passed down from much earlier, but people still alive who remember the depression era knew all about bedbugs.

We haven’t heard much about bedbugs since then. Entire generations grew up in a time when that saying was used, jokingly, without anyone knowing just what a bedbug was. Unfortunately many Americans are finding all about bedbugs once more. And hard times are clearly back.

Why would this happen? What is it that people do different when they are poor that would invite bedbugs into their homes? It isn’t that they are not keeping clean. The problem is that they are shopping for clothes at garage sales, flea markets and in used garment stores. They can’t afford to buy new things.

Bedbugs are pesky little creatures that hide skillfully in dark corners, cracks and the folds of cloth. Thus they are world travelers. People flying from poverty stricken areas overseas might bring a few of them to the United States and then accidentally unleash them when staying at a motel or hotel for the night. Once the motel room is infested, other travelers pick up a few riders and carry them on either to other motels or to their homes. Used clothes from these homes get passed on to Goodwill or other places that sell the clothes to unsuspecting buyers.

The blood-sucking insects are not just limiting their attacks to the homes of the poor, however. They have been showing up in trendy retail stores, in movie theaters, in airports, on cruise ships and in office buildings. Infestations have been spreading like wildfire because the tiny bugs can ride in the clothes of humans and go where ever a person might go in the course of a day.

The problem hasn’t been a major news story because having bedbugs is not something people like to talk about. The critters have invaded some well-known places like the Empire State Building in New York and retail stores like Victoria’s Secret. Did they ride in on customers or on returned garments?

Bedbugs also like to hide in cloth covered furniture, curtains, textiles, dark cracks in the floor, picture frames, in bed mattresses, and even in box springs and the bed frames .They mostly hang out in and around areas where people sleep.

 It is amazing how fast they can move around when times are bad and people shop for the household items they need at bargain prices.

Once a home is infested, it is a difficult to get rid of them. No one can do it without professional help, and that gets pricy. Once they get in the bed it usually means disposing of the bed.Thus an infested home of a poor person, be it rental property or a run-down motel room, usually does not get debugged. The occupants just live with the constant barrage of bites.

Bedbugs generally come out at night and feed on their victim’s blood while they are asleep. They said people do not feel the insect when it is feeding but is left with itchy swollen red spots, somewhat like a flea or mosquito bite. A peculiar sign of bed bug bites is that they usually leave a row of bites. The usual places they bite are the exposed areas of the skin, often the face, neck, hands and arms.

The process of getting rid of bedbugs is usually a very big job. In addition to disposing of the infested mattresses and beds, all linens in the house must be thoroughly washed or cleaned and then placed in sealed containers. All areas where the insects might hide must be deep cleaned with a stiff brush to remove eggs. Furniture must be dismantled and all cracks cleaned. Sometimes cracks in floors, walls and moldings must be sealed. Mattresses can be enclosed in special plastic bags to prevent further infestation. After this, a pest control expert will treat the entire building with an insecticide that will kill any remaining bed bugs.