UPDATE: Forbes recently published a story on the continuing bedbug infestation, and the top US cities with the problem, based up0n information from national exterminators, Orkin and Terminix. You probably won’t be surprised to find New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. on the list, but to get the full story, check it out here.
If you’ve stayed in a hotel lately, you’ve been in danger of not only being bitten, but taking a few of the hard to spot hitchhikers home with you. It’s been reported that two bugs can become up to 120 in just 30 days. All together now: Ewwww.
Bedbugs are small, brown and flat–like an apple seed. It’s unlikely you’ll see an actual bedbug since they shun the light and come out to feed on you at night (perhaps this is where vampire lore started?). The Mayo Clinic indicates: In general, the sites of bedbug bites usually are: red, often with a darker red spot in the middle, itchy, arranged in a rough line or in a cluster, located on the face, neck, arms and hands.
If you suddenly experience red bites/welts on your body, notice blood smears and/or brown exoskeletons (from the creatures shedding) on your sheets or in the seams of your mattresses, you have been infested. Some advise you to wash suspect clothing and bedding in the hottest water and dryer setting the material can stand. Experts advise that water temperature be at least 120 F (49 C). This, however, does not rid you of the ones on, or near, your mattress and suitcase.
Most articles indicate that once bedbugs infest your sanctuary, the only sure recourse is calling in a professional. Wired Science, however, asserts that you can compel the buggers out with the help of a cat dish, insulated one-third gallon jug, dry ice, baby powder and tape. The concentrated carbon dioxide emitted by the dry ice attracts the bugs and the powder traps them. The cost? Less than $20. Check it out from the link above.
Some organic practitioners rely on essential oils, especially lavender and eucalyptus, which are natural, but not oily, and very concentrated. Non-professionals should always dilute oils for safety. Avoid getting even diluted mixtures on your skin. Find additional safety tips at NAHA and Aroma Web. A recipe appears below that could help with bedbugs and dust mites: simply spray the mattress, including the seams and the sides, the area around the bed and the headboard. As an additional precaution, you could make up a dropper bottle with the equal, undiluted parts of the two oils to place strategic drops on the mattress before applying the spray mixture. Neither oil should stain, but do test a few drops on mattress before going full-speed.
Do also make sure the full application’s done well ahead of bedtime. The room should also be well-ventilated to avoid headaches, respiratory problems, etc. Also, keep cats out of the area as essential oils can be toxic to cats, up to and including killing them if they breathe in the oils too long. In addition to spraying the bed, I also like to spray, or strategically place drops on, my freshly laundered and dried sheets. The folded and scented sheets, as a bonus, make my linen closet smell great.
Purchase essential oils at organic grocers such as Whole Foods, Central Market, Sprouts, and Alfafa’s. You can also order online with confidence in quality from Appalachian Valley (http://av-at.com/) , A Little Ol’Factory (www.alittleolfactory.com) or Aura Cacia (www.auracacia.com/). The grocery visit allows you to sniff to identify any gag factors. Keep in mind if you prefer one aroma over the other, insert total drops in that scent. Here’s the recipe:
4 ounce fine-mist spray bottle (help the enviroment and reuse a bottle you already have)
3 1/2 ounces water
20 drops lavender essential oil
20 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Pour half of water into spray bottle, add essential oil drops, then remaining water.
Shake well each time before using.
It appears that international travel increased the bedbug infestation. So, the best defense is a good offense. The Bedbug Registry offers a way to check your potential hotel or apartment for reports of bedbugs before your stay/move. The bedbugregistry.com touts itself as a “free, public database of bedbug infestations.” You can also report problems you encounter with the creatures. I also take the essential oil mixture with me on trips to spray the sheets, bed covers and area around the hotel bed. It also helps to put lavender or herb sachets in all of your luggage to discourage hitchhikers. Augment the sachets with essential oils if you decide to purchase these for the spray.
And, if you’ve found bug bites and/or believe you’ve been infested, please do not visit me–or the bug free hotels. Good luck.