A few years ago, before the recession, at a time I’m somewhat nostalgic for now, I remembered hearing about NYC’s bedbug problem and laughing. “You mean, like the saying, ‘sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite’?” I’d say. I had only heard of them in historic fiction. To me, they might as well have been monsters in fairy tales.
What a wonderful time it was.
Now, if you so much as mention that you think there might be bedbugs in your apartment, people will rearrange their schedules to meet you in a safe, bug-free zone, putting you on a no-call social list until it’s figured out. People used to throw out brand-new mattresses all the time, which only added to the problem. (Now, they’re supposed to be wrapped in plastic first.) Hotel chains have been driven up a wall, even some of the nicest ones. People seem to have “a touch of the bedbug post-traumatic stress disorder.” These days, if I wake up at all itchy for any reason, I, like many New Yorkers, jump up in a panic and rush to the mirror to make sure I don’t have bedbug bites.
Bedbug bites … it seems like someone’s playing a joke on us, but they’re not. Adding to the fear is the fact that some bedbugs reportedly can, in theory, carry horrific, deadly diseases. Bedbug Awareness Week is this week, but I’m sure it’s what a lot of people think about anyway. Here’s the official guide to taking care of them, but I’ll share some of its top takeaways.
The Signs of Bedbugs
- Bedbugs often leave droppings and eggs on the seams and tufts of mattresses. You also may see small blood stains on the sheets.
- You may actually see the bugs themselves. Newly hatched bugs are about the size of a poppy seed.
- You may have marks on your body minutes or days after sleeping in the area. Not everyone has these marks.
- You may also easily spot droppings and eggs around the furniture. Bedbugs also reportedly like books, baseboards, window frames, pictures/frames, and insulation, including spaces around outlets.
One way to handle this is to contact a pest control company. If you moved in and suddenly now have bedbugs, but your landlord has been unresponsive to the problem, you can call 311 to file a complaint. Note that attempting to do it yourself with bombs and foggers isn’t safe and often doesn’t work, unfortunately. There are ways to take care of the problem yourself, but it’s always labor-intensive.
Things You Can Do
- Reduce clutter. Take toys, blankets, stuffed animals, and other soft items that may attract bedbugs and put them in a plastic bag with Nuvan strips.
- Launder infested linens with hot water (at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit) or heat the linens in the dryer, and then keep them away from the infected area.
- Safely use a blow-dryer to force out bedbugs from places like your mattress and then crush them with paper towels.
- Wipe down stains with hot, soapy water. Scrub with a stiff brush to dislodge eggs.
- Vacuum everything (like frames, floors, and furniture). Dispose of the vacuum bag outside of the home.
- Take out all of the drawers of your dressers and furniture to see if bedbugs lurk there.
- Encase your mattress and box spring in covers that are labeled with “for bedbugs.”
- Seal cracks, tighten switch covers, and try to limit overall the access to the outside world.
- If you need to throw something out, don’t just put it on the street; it should be wrapped in plastic and labeled. Box springs are usually the items that are so infested that they need to go.
- If you do need pesticides, I advise calling a pest-control company. Don’t attempt using a fogger, as it won’t work.
- Even after you’re done, be on the lookout at least every seven days.
- Create a DIY bedbug interceptor to prevent and catch them.