Buggin’ Out

Dorsey Shaw at New York Magazine:

Last night, The Daily Show devoted an entire segment to the very unfunny bed bug problem that’s sweeping New York. Thankfully, host Jon Stewart managed to bring the funny by including an informative, but disturbing clip from Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno series that featured the actress dressed up like a giant bed bug who emotes while getting penetrated by a penis that is actually a knife. And you thought Blue Velvet was weird.

Gulliver at The Economist:

BEDBUGS have been resurgent in America since the mid-1990s. But the situation has gotten out of hand in recent years. New York City, where bedbugs have been found in movie theatres and clothing stores, has been especially hard-hit. Now, USA Today reports, even workplace infestations are on the rise:

Nearly one in five exterminators have found bedbugs in office buildings in the U.S., according to a recent survey of extermination firms by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky. That compares with less than 1% in 2007.

“It’s a national issue,” says Ron Harrison of pest control firm Orkin. “Not all of us have to go to work and worry about it, but we all have to be sensitive to it.”

Most cubicle dwellers and corner office executives are blissfully unaware of bug problems. And many wrongly think infestations take place only in the homes of unclean folks or in college dorms. But bedbugs can survive in a multitude of eek-evoking settings, such as offices, movie theaters and libraries

The Internal Revenue Service, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, and even Time magazine have discovered bedbugs in their offices recently, according to the USA Today report. (The Economist‘s offices are still bedbug-free—at least as far as I know.) The problem, of course, is that bedbugs are highly mobile. They can travel on people and on the things that people travel with—suitcases, duffel bags, clothing, and so on. That’s why we business travellers have to be so wary. But there’s only so much you can do, right?

Jasmine Moy at The Awl:

So, I realized that my apartment was infested. Because never breathing again is not an option, I sought a solution.

Here is a short list of things that you should absolutely not do. Not only do these things not solve your problem, they’re expensive and time consuming.

1. DO NOT PANIC. Panicking leads to doing all of the things on this list.

2. Do not throw away your mattress. Even if you put a sign that says, “bedbugs!” on it, you never know who might pick it up, including someone else in your building, which means you’re making the problem bigger for yourself.

3. Do not buy a new mattress. If you haven’t thoroughly attended to the rest of your belongings, they’ll find your new mattress in no time.

4. Do not move. You’ll probably move them with you.

5. Do not bring all your clothes to the dry cleaner. It’s pointless, see above.

There are however a number of cheap ways to start combating the problem.

1. Get carpet tape (that’s the thick, double-sided stuff) and roll a line of it in your apartment doorways, which will keep them from getting in or out of your room/apartment. (Some have suggested outlining your bed with it, which seems extreme and is not aesthetically pleasing but would work as a preventive measure.)

2. Put the legs of your bed in small plastic containers and put ½ an inch of baby oil in the containers, which will keep bugs from getting into or out of your bed (they’re not good climbers).

3. Invest in mattress covers to cover your mattress and box spring.

4. Buy a gallon or so of rubbing alcohol and some spray bottles. Rubbing alcohol is your new best friend. It not only kills bed bug eggs, but also works as a repellent to keep them from laying new ones, and keeps them from biting you at night.

However, whatever the Internet says about being able to conquer the bugs all by yourself, I wouldn’t try it. Just as it’s unwise to get cut-rate Lasik, or fly to Mexico for plastic surgery, the risks outweigh the cost of paying a good professional.

My roommate had been working at a restaurant and the owner there recommended Mario to us. He was no-nonsense and comforting. He assured us that we weren’t dirty people and that we had nothing to be ashamed of. Just last week he’d seen a bedbug crawling on a guy’s shirt on the subway (oof) so really, you can get them any place! This somehow managed to make me feel both better and not-at-all better at the same exact time.

Before he could come and spray (fumigating almost never works in one shot, he said, and heating/freezing all your things costs a fortune and requires days in extreme temperatures, either below 10 degrees or above 115 degrees Fahrenheit), we had to take every object we owned, spray it thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, and bag it. Electronics could be given a once over with alcohol wipes. All clothes had to be put in the dryer for 10 minutes and bagged.

“When I get there,” he informed us, “I want all the bags in the center of each room, leave suitcases out, mattresses uncovered, all shelves and dressers empty. I will not touch your apartment unless this is done.” Yes, sir!

Over the course of the next week, as I carried load after load of laundry up and down my 5th floor walkup to the corner laundromat, I couldn’t think of anything worse that could happen to a person, short of terminal illness or loss of a limb. Even then, I assumed this had a silver lining: “Hey! Less body area to feast on!”

I sprayed myself head to toe in rubbing alcohol each night. I slept without covers and kept a flashlight next to my bed so that when I woke up in the middle of the night (I was being startled awake by nightmares several times an evening, go figure), I could try to catch them in the act. Why? I don’t know. Too afraid to kill a bug with my bare hands, I’d probably have just flicked it onto something else to burrow in.

Every morning I’d spend fifteen minutes inspecting every inch of my body to see whether a bite I had was a new one or not (some people mark them with pens, but that seems, to me, to call more attention to them than necessary).

You start looking for bedbugs on strangers on the train. You start imagining what kind of people let them get to the point at which piles of them are found in corners, and mattresses are covered like beehives. I was afraid to tell people I had bedbugs, afraid that if they knew, they wouldn’t want me in their houses. I wouldn’t blame them.

Bedbugs are, in a word, traumatic. But little by little, the bags started to accumulate. It turned out to be a great excuse to clean house. Any clothes that weren’t worth carrying up the four flights of stairs after their cleansing trip in the dryer went straight into a Salvation Army bin outside the laundromat. I invested in those vacuum seal bags, which conveniently also saved me a ton of storage space! I felt good knowing that all the clothes I was wearing were sealed in bags that no bug could penetrate.

Christine Egan at Huffington Post:

Dear paranoid, irrational, germophobic humans:

We understand from recent media reports that some of you have become infatuated — dare we say, obsessed — with us lately. We can’t blame you, but this madness really has to stop.

We live together, and yet we don’t know each other at all. You’re so critical, so judgmental, so hateful, so unwilling to work on the problems in our relationship. It’s sad, really.

Now, we don’t want to get into a whole name-calling thing here, but we think you’re being hypocritical — and we don’t take pleasure in saying so.

But you go to the beach. You sit outside. Mosquitoes bite you. You scratch, complain briefly, apply ointments, and perhaps suggest to your host that he invest in screens. But do you fumigate the boardwalk, set your host’s front porch on fire and throw away the sundress, flip flops or Bermuda shorts you were wearing on the night you drank frozen margaritas in front of the beach bonfire and got 17 mosquito bites? No, you do not.

Even worse, you go back to the beach, weekend after weekend, summer after summer, year after year — only to get bitten again and again. As if that weren’t bad enough, you consistently exhibit this same masochistic behavior at the lake (hideous horse flies), the mountains (odious black flies), and yes, even in your own home: We hate to tell you this, but your filthy pets have fleas, and your bratty kids have head lice. (Which is just plain gross. Please keep them away from us.) And do you wage war against the millions of no-see-ums in your backyard? Of course you don’t, because they’re tiny and have a cute name. Personally, we no-see-the-attraction.

So why the hell are you in such a panic over us all of a sudden — particularly in urban areas like New York City? We don’t spread disease (thank menacing mosquitoes for West Nile Virus and those ticks for Lyme Disease), crawl around your kitchen counters (have you ever seen an earwig? talk about ugly), or cause you any major harm. All we do is nibble you a little, and hell, lots of you don’t even feel our bites or end up scratching at all.

Sure, we may inadvertently give some of you an impressive reddish rash (we can’t help it), but do us a favor and please don’t call us “disgusting” or “nasty” in public. That hurts our feelings. Who do you think we are, anyway, pubic lice? (The very definition of disgusting. And we know you’ve had the crabs, by the way. We live in your bed, remember?) Furthermore, do you have any idea how many dust mites you reside with every day in your McMansions with granite counter tops, media rooms and cathedral ceilings? No, you don’t. And you sure as hell don’t want to, either.

Nina Burleigh at Time:

For reasons still unknown, bedbugs really seem to like the state of Ohio. The problem is so dire in Cincinnati that some people with infested apartments have resorted to sleeping on the streets.

Cincinnati created a Bedbug Remediation Commission in 2007 and, like other local and national governments around the world, the city is trying to mobilize strategies to control infestations of the resilient insects, which can hide in almost any crack or crevice and can go a year or more without eating. On Aug. 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a consumer alert about off-label bedbug treatments, warning in particular of the dangers of using outdoor pesticides in homes. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has mounted a more unusual response to the crisis: it petitioned the EPA for an exemption to allow in-home use of propoxur, a pesticide and neurotoxin banned in the 1990s out of concern for its effects on children. (See the top 10 weird insect mating rituals.)

Although the EPA rejected Ohio’s propoxur plea in June, the agency has scheduled an Aug. 18 meeting with state and municipal leaders to try to formulate an abatement strategy everyone can live with. Among the meeting’s participants: representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, no joke, the Department of Defense.

“We are hopeful that the outcome of this meeting provides a solution,” says Ohio agriculture secretary Robert Boggs. “Quite frankly, something needs to happen, and it needs to happen quickly.”

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Sorry, we’re trying to be more copacetic about bedbugs. But, they’ve invaded the Empire State Building! Towering symbol of modernity? New York icon? Bed bugs don’t give a bed bug fuck. They’re taking it down, from the bottom up.The building issued this statement:

“Like so many other buildings in New York City, the Empire State Building had a small incident of bedbugs. The occurrence was specific to a uniform storage area in the basement of the building. The area has been treated and fully cleared.”

This tourist from Buffalo was pretty copacetic about it, though: He told the Daily News, “You would think that for $20 a ticket, it should not be infested with bugs.”

Wonkette:

Bedbugs! They’re destroying Freedom & Liberty even faster than Debbie Riddle and terror babies combined. In Ohio and several other states, the critters have become so unruly that local governments are calling on the feds — including the Department of Defense — to help find a solution.

Why is Defense the agency you turn to when plotting your War on Bugs? Because they issue Technical Guides on pest management and control. Also, bedbugs might become a national security issue because they scare Americans. Scaring Americans often leads to Americans declaring war, and war is the DoD’s bailiwick. See how that works?

Your Wonkette remembers early rumblings of Bedbug Fever back in the mid-aughts, before the problem reached Full-Blown Epidemic proportions. At the time we lived in New York City, which has since turned into a war zone in which bedbugs compete with cockroaches for territorial control. It’s like the Bloods and Crips all over again. Oh, and did you hear about those bedbugs who crashed the Manhattan movie theaters the other day? They’re worse than not-mosques.

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1 Comment

Filed under Public Health

One response to “Buggin’ Out

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