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Like many insects and other small organisms, bed bugs—those blood-sucking parasites that plague the nightly repose of thousands of Americans, as well as many others throughout the world—have adapted well over time. Most organisms adapt to changing conditions, but creatures with shorter lifespans (such as the bed bug’s 11-month average, outside of laboratory conditions) tend to do so much more quickly than the rest of us. With methods of bed bug extermination focusing, more or less since time immemorial, on the elimination of any individual bed bugs encountered, it’s small wonder that their ongoing adaptive process has favored those with pesticide resistance and thicker skins.
These individuals have survived to pass on these traits to their offspring. And pass them on they have: some scientists regard the recent outbreak of bed bugs over the last three to four years as being the result of an evolutionary leap. Bed bug populations which have not been isolated from the overall gene pool show a resistance to common pesticides that is nearly 1,000 times more potent than that displayed by bed bugs from a few decades ago.
In some cases, today’s bed bugs—while no visibly different than those from centuries past—can scurry around quite comfortably in environments which are laced with substances that effectively neutralized their direct ancestors. Much as with the plague which swept through Europe repeatedly over the centuries, each subsequent sweep affected a much smaller portion of the population than the one before it. Today, the question of how to get rid of bed bugs has no simple or short-term answers.
Bed bugs are surprisingly stealthy. They aren’t very agile, and they can’t fly; they reproduce more quickly than other, larger animals, but they’re far from being the most fecund of insects. These nocturnal parasites’ only real ally is stealth and concealment. Here are a few ways to help identify a bed bug infestation in your home.
Bed Bugs are insidious, but can be dealt with. Like doctors dealing with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, professional pest management companies have more than one trick up their sleeves. By most estimations, hiring a pest control professional is still the best way to go when it comes to dealing with bed bugs: most individual populations of bed bugs won’t share all of the same resistances as bed bug populations in a location hundreds of miles away.
Bed bugs do spread, and they like to accompany us when we travel, but an increasingly bug-conscious public has managed to effectively curtail this issue (at least for the time being). It’s a growing problem, but not at such a level as of yet to make it impossible to deal with. What it does mean, however, is that professional pest eliminators will often need to be called back to deal with bed bugs from the same population, until hitting on a treatment that works.
Professional pest management experts know how to treat bed bugs: if there are pesticides which are more (or less) effective on the local population, chances are strong that they’re aware of them. Additionally, they understand the behavior of bed bugs, and have experience in tracking down their favorite hiding places. Bed bugs are small enough to conceal themselves almost anywhere; while your average homeowner will look for a place where “they might hide, if they were that small,” a pest control professional will look for any place offering the specific conditions which—from a bed bug’s perspective—amount to the perfect environment to stay hidden and expand a colony.
Professionals can also offer tips on how to prevent a bed bug infestation, in order to help curtail the possibility of a problem arising again in the future. There are many factors which add up to making sleeping individuals an easier target for bed bugs, often because homeowners will actually overestimate the little bloodsuckers’ mobility. Bed bugs have a surprisingly difficult time reaching their slumbering prey, unless they’re lying on the floor.
Step one on any homeowner’s list of “how to prevent bed bug infestation” should be to make sure that there is a small gap between any furnishings and the adjacent wall. This will minimize convenient climbing opportunities. Provided there are no bed linens reaching to the floor, the bed bugs—which cannot fly, and aren’t built for jumping—will be forced to climb up to a sleeper by way of the bedframe itself.
For many people, the biggest drawback to hiring an exterminator is the expense. This is particularly true when exterminating the notoriously resilient bed bug. In confronting bed bug infestations, the pest management expert is usually successful in tracking down the majority of the insects’ hiding places, at which point there is the question of which tools to use to attempt to dispose of the unwanted interlopers.
The choice of pesticides for bed bugs is traditionally one of an assortment of neurotoxic chemicals. These substances attack the bed bugs’ nervous systems, killing them quickly and efficiently—assuming the population isn’t resistant to the poison chosen. With that assumption in hand, it is likely to require two to five visits from an exterminator in order to ascertain that all of the bed bugs have been eradicated. Even where there isn’t a specific resistance, bed bugs have become generally more resistant to toxic residue, and must often be sprayed directly for the chemical to be effective.
This kind of commitment can wind up costing the average homeowner thousands of dollars, and the process only becomes more drawn-out if a callback is required (due to the first choice of chemicals having no effect). This is an increasingly common scenario.
If one can afford it, the professional exterminator is still the most heavily-advised route: the bed bug stymies over-the-counter remedies just as effectively, so the professional’s advantages over the average homeowner are still considerable. There is another problem, however: the issue of personal health risks.
The chemicals used by the pest control industry to help fight off bed bugs are extremely toxic. Many of them, including those which are still legal for use in the United States today, can cause serious illness and death in humans through accidental over-exposure. It is usually necessary to find someplace to stay while a bed bug treatment is being applied, and often for some time afterward.
Even if all relevant safety procedures are followed, the effects of exposure to a recently sprayed area can have potentially severe consequences for the elderly and infirm, those with asthma or other existing breathing problems, allergy sufferers, small children, and family pets.
Given the many problems that arise when getting rid of bed bugs, it’s definitely an advisable strategy to try and avoid infestation in the first place—but bed bugs are present throughout the world. Wherever you find people, you will find bed bugs. So, how do you prevent bed bug infestations, given that these little critters’ entire purpose in life is to feed on your blood in the middle of the night?
Many people prefer to avoid the expense and uncertainty of hiring pest control by dealing with bed bugs naturally. Bed Bug Bully uses diatomaceous earth (D.E. for short) to attack bed bugs in much the same way as salt dries out a snail: the tiny, fossilized phytoplankton inside the D.E. pierces the bed bugs’ thin outer skins, and dries out their internal organs.
Bed Bug Bully also incorporates the use of all-natural essential oils from plants which have evolved substances to naturally deter insect pests. Plants like thyme, lemongrass, peppermint and cedar are all popular choices for their essential oils. They smell pleasant to people, but are powerful deterrents to small insects, and some of them are potentially lethal.
All-natural sprays incorporating essential oils as an active ingredient are also available for combating bed bugs. These require direct application to kill a bed bug, but may offer a deterring power which—thanks to their non-toxic and pleasantly scented composition—can be sprayed throughout an infested residence. Read and follow all packaging and label directions thoroughly.