Written by Nancy Miorelli
It’s no wonder people are afraid of bugs with how they’re portrayed in the media. It’s true that insects are our major competitors for both our food and our health and invade our homes. In my opinion, this, coupled with relatively little formal education about insects in schools and universities enables our minds run wild about the dangers of insects. It’s one of the reasons we started this blog! To make insects and their biology more accessible and relateable!
If you are someone who is very afraid of insects, spiders (and their kin) or about an infestation sit back and relax. There are some very easy things that you can do to help put your mind at ease.
Analyze the Risk
The first thing to do is to think about – “How much of a risk is there?” This will help you take appropriate measures when going out and living your life. Bed bugs specifically are more a problem in the northern states of the US presumably because of the climate there. Hotels, dorm rooms, or apartments are at a higher risk because of the number of people that are coming and going. There have been stories of bed bugs being found in other places like in movie theaters or in airplanes but the chances of that are really small with only a handful of reported cases like this. Companies are usually quick to respond to these threats because of the bad press that accompanies the problem.
Take Appropriate Action
Not everywhere is bed bug free but if you’re in a high risk situation it’s time to put your detective skills to use. Specifically for bed bugs, if you’re in a hotel, peel back the sheets until you get to the mattress. Brown spots (like dried blood/poop) or actually finding the bugs themselves warrants notifying hotel management, switching to another room, or moving another hotel. If you’re moving into a new apartment look in the carpets or in the baseboards for bed bugs and fleas. It’s okay to thoroughly examine your space. It is much better to be safe than sorry.
In the case of movie theaters or airplanes, in the rare off chance case that it happens to you, check your clothes before you enter your house for the bugs. Immediately wash and dry your clothes (on high heat) if you find them. If you were on a flight and you found bed bugs on your clothes or after you were in a hotel and found the bugs, wash and dry your clothes and store your suitcases in sealed plastic bags for two weeks. Just because you get them on you doesn’t mean you have an infestation on your hands. Doing a few simple actions can prevent a problem.
If your house is already infested, capture some of the bed bugs and send them to a pest control company or an entomology extension office to confirm the ID. There are also bat bugs which look *very* similar to bed bugs but don’t infest humans. These agencies will be able to confirm your pest and walk you through the subsequent steps to rid yourself of them.
If you are confronted with a bedbug infestation, you’ll need to take appropriate professional action. Please read this webpage before progressing further. Use this webpage to find a local contact in your area!
Keeping It All In Perspective
I’m lucky to live in Ecuador where I do where there are no insect vectored diseases. However, I do travel down to the coast of Ecuador where I work with a local community. It’s always a stark reminder of the prevalence of insect vectored diseases there as one of the members of the community has Leishmaniasis. It’s a lifelong disease that will eventually kill you and one type permanently disfigures your body. There’s no cure. There’s no vaccine. But when I go down there I take the necessary safety precautions. In the evening I wear boots, long pants, and long sleeves in addition to insect repellent. That’s the extent of the protection I can do against this disease. I’m aware of the risk, but I also don’t want my fear to stop me from helping out and living my life.
That being said, bed bugs specifically, can be a nuisance. They can be difficult to get rid of. If you do have an infestation it will take time and professionals to get rid of the problem. If you live in a poorly maintained apartment, the problem can come back. I’m not at all saying that anything of these things are good, or not that bad. I am saying that bed bugs don’t carry diseases and they can be managed and eliminated. Bed bugs are a stubborn but manageable problem without long lasting health risks and it should be treated as such.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)
When confronted with the possibility of encountering a pest, like the notorious bed bug, it’s important to keep yourself in check before panicking about the situation. You should first analyze the risk and determine if there is reason to investigate further. Then if you have reason to believe there’s cause for suspicion, take appropriate action! That might be checking your clothes, your hotel room, or your house. If you have an infestation, read this website and contact a local professional. You shouldn’t combat this problem alone. Finally, keep everything in perspective! Bed bugs are annoying, and cause distress, and can dishevel your life a bit while you take care of the problem but your health, and the health of the people close to you are not in danger. Keep calm, use the provided resources, and tackle the problem head on =)