Scandalous (and not so scandalous) secrets related to gardening, cooking, health, nutrition, and whatever else crosses my mind . . . I am a long time organic gardener who has endeavored to educate myself in various ways--from learning and apprenticing with elder gardeners, to reading and researching, as well as doing my own experiments right in the garden . . .
Cimex lectularius, bed bugs, are parasites of human beings. Their only food is our blood, and they need it for every stage of their lives. Scientist tell us that they are very genetically diverse, very adaptable, and that they have been with us as long as we have existed. Once they thoroughly infest a home or an apartment, they are difficult to get rid of. The best offense is a good defense.
The first thing we need to think about is how they arrive in our homes to begin with.Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers. They hitchhike in and out of homes and business on people’s shoes, hats, scarves, sweaters, and coats. Holiday parties and family gatherings, where coats and sweaters may be thrown on a bed or be crowded into a closet, are the beloved Grand Central Station of bed bugs. Hotels and motels are also often bed bug transit stations, and they can be carried home in one’s luggage.
Bed bugs can also enter our homes under their own power.The adults grow to about 1/16th of an inch, sometimes larger, and they can travel fairly long distances and squeeze through the tiniest cracks.One survival instinct possess is the desire to spread out.A small population of bed bugs is difficult to detect; however, a large one is impossible to ignore.
These adaptable creatures have also learned to sense threats, and will flee from rooms, homes, apartments, and businesses where pesticides and heat treatments are being used. Whether or not the treatments are successful for the home or apartment in question, the majority of the insects will have fled through narrow cracks around baseboards, windows, plumbing, switch plates, and through electrical outlets as well.These are the same pathways they can use to enter your home!
One begins to see how tricky it can be to avoid an infestation. Understanding what attracts bed bugs can help. They have very a very keen sense of smell, and it is cued into all the sorts of scents that humans emit, even the ones we cannot smell ourselves.Their sense of smell is their primary way of finding us.
In our homes and apartments, and even in our offices and businesses, we can begin by sealing those tiny cracks mentioned above that allow them to enter. Those tiny cracks also allow scents to waft down the pathways and hiding places in our walls where bed bugs like to spend their days, out of the sight of human beings.
Frequent airing out of our homes and offices is also helpful.Given a choice, bed bugs will head for the strongest human scents.You don’t want that to be your home.Besides, frequent airing lets out the toxins that are out-gassing from all the synthetic materials found in our homes and buildings, the fumes from our cleaning products, and it lets in fresh air and oxygen.Frequent airing makes your home healthier!
Laundry should be done frequently, as piles of dirty laundry are bed bug magnets. Sheets at least, and all bedding if there is a possibility of infestation, should be washed every week. Washing with hot water and drying on high heat kills bed bugs.And for those doing laundry at home, once the washer has filled and started agitating, you can turn off the cycle for the night or the day, and they will all drown—even if the fabrics involved cannot stand high heat.If you have no laundry facilities at home, you can use a bucket or the tub to soak those items that cannot be washed in hot water or put in the dryer.Just make sure to squeeze out any air and that the fabric is completely submerged.
When out visiting, avoid piling your outer wear up with other people’s clothes or hats.If you know ahead of time that this is not going to be avoidable, have a couple of plastic garbage bags waiting for you at home, one by your front door and one in the most convenient place to change clothes near your entrance. Also have a complete change of clothes waiting for you near the second garbage bag. Place all your outer wear in the first one, and seal it tightly.Then change your clothes and seal them in the other bag.In between, you might wish to shower and wash your hair.Bed bugs do not ordinarily hitchhike on our skin or in our hair, and they usually wait till we are asleep to actually touch us, but we can easily transfer them to our hair with hats and scarf’s.And in very heavily infested buildings they can drop down on us from light fixtures and vents.
Your bagged clothes can then be treated at your leisure.You can soak them for 6 to 8 hours, wash them with hot water and dry on high, or leave them outside in freezing weather for four days or more.Ironing with a hot iron or steaming thoroughly with a special clothing steamer will also do the trick.In addition one can purchase small heat chambers made for treating items that may have come in contact with bed bugs.
And then there are our shoes.Shoes smell like heaven to bed bugs.Taking your shoes off when you come in your home, or even before, is a good idea.Not only does this reduce the possibility that you are depositing these hitchhikers throughout your home, it gives the shoes a chance to air out.The less scent the shoes have, the less attractive they will be to bed bugs.In fact, having two or three pairs of everyday shoes is a good idea.The longer you can air them out between wearings, the better.If your feet tend to sweat and, um, well, smell—several sets of activated charcoal inserts will help.You can also air the inserts out separately from your shoes, and rotate them on a daily basis.
Tea Tree, citronella, and lavender essential oils are known to confuse bed bugs.Using a drop or two on each shoe before leaving the house can be helpful.Essential oils are generally available from natural food stores, herb shops, some bed and bath type stores, as well as from many on-line outlets.
There is also a product called CimeXa which is completely non-toxic when used as directed.It is the current scientifically proven go-to treatment for bed bugs. It’s a dust that has no scent at all.A tiny puff wafted into each shoe provides excellent protection from any bug that comes in contact with it.Once you have your CimeXa, read the label and consider treating the inside of your car as well.If you are going to travel, treat your luggage before you leave, and all your belongings before you come home. With CimeXa, more is not better. The dust should be applied so finely that you can’t actually see it.If the bed bugs can see it, they will avoid it. CimeXa is only available on-line at this time, but it is available from many different sellers. (See comments for more information on CimeXa.)
Meanwhile, if you need to help a friend or family member with laundry and sealing all those tiny crawl spaces in a building where there is a known infestation, don’t stop at using essential oils. Deet, which can be a problem for sensitive people, is the best bed bug repellant you can buy.It is not healthy, however, to use Deet on a daily basis.But if you need to help clean up an infested area, put it to good use.And definitely wear clothing and shoes that can be soaked, left out to freeze, or washed and dried on high heat.
Bed bugs reproduce very quickly, and they then disperse in an effort to protect themselves.Ignoring someone else’s infestation is not only harmful to the person affected; it is harmful to us all.Let’s try to be good neighbors and help where help is needed.We can stop this before it becomes our scourge.
Your right, this isn't about gardening, but you might need to know!
Published by the Willapa Harbor Herald, December 21, 2016 under the title 'Bed Bugs are Among Us.' Posted here with permission. (This version is slightly edited. The originally published version refers to our local community andthis version also contains a few corrections.)
Copyright 2016, Harvest McCampbell. Please feel free to use the buttons below to share. All other rights reserved.