October 29, 2010


Invasion of the Bedbugs! by guest blogger Jordan D. Brown


            Bed Bug on Skin

When I was a boy, I loved when my mom tucked me in at night, and sent me off to dreamland with these sweet words: “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” Today, many children and adults find this cute rhyming advice more terrifying than reassuring. After all, bedbugs are real bloodthirsty critters—and these tiny guys have been coming out in HUGE numbers.


Much to the joy of New York City tabloids and exterminator companies, bedbug infestations have been found at many high-profile businesses and landmarks including Niketown, Abercrombie and Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, the Metropolitan Opera House, the offices of Howard Stern, not to mention numerous movie theaters, housing projects, posh apartments and more. And this is not just a NYC phenomenon; bedbugs are reproducing in epidemic proportions across the country. Once bedbugs settle in, removing them can be costly, time-consuming, and tricky. Oh, and did I mention that bedbugs can live for a year without eating? (I’m cranky if I miss breakfast.)

  'Micro Mania' coverWhat exactly are bedbugs? Why are they spreading in such alarming numbers? Is there anything you can do to protect yourselves from these creatures? Last year I wrote a children’s science book MICRO MANIA to explore such gross and engrossing questions. The subtitle of the book even mentions these sneaky, itty-bitty insects— “A Really Close-Up Look at Bacteria, Bedbugs, and the Zillions of Other Gross Little Creatures That Live In, On, and All Around You!”

Bedbugs are flat, reddish-brown wingless insects, about the size of a grain of rice. During the day, they hide in the walls, in tiny cracks, behind electrical outlets, underneath wallpaper, behind picture frames, and more. As their name suggests, they are also fond of beds. That’s because at night, they slip out through the cracks and come to feast on blood…your blood.

Bedbugs find us in the dark by sensing the carbon dioxide gas we breathe out. Once they locate a sleeping human, they stick their mouthparts into our skin and suck away. Bedbugs are hearty eaters. In less than fifteen minutes of blood-sucking, their bodies can triple in size. The bite left by a bedbug might look like a small red dot and feel itchy. If you think you’ve been bitten by bedbugs, try not to panic, and don’t scratch. Just wash the area with soap and water, and try some anti-itch cream. On the plus side (“You mean there actually IS a plus side?!”), bedbugs are not believed to carry or transmit diseases.

Why are bedbugs on the rise? I posed this question to the spokesperson of the bedbug community, Alfonzo Z. Bloodsucker, Esq. (a big fan of my book, by the way). Speaking on behalf of his species, he responded, “Why are there so darn many of us these days? Well, a lot has to do with increased global travel. Years ago, people tended to stay put more. Now, it’s quite easy for a bedbug to ‘see the world’—you just have to hitch a ride on the pants of a globe-trotting businessperson, or in the suitcase of an international celebrity.” Mr. Bloodsucker also explained that once very powerful pesticides like DDT were banned in 1972, bedbugs were able to reproduce more freely.

So, what can you do if you think you might have a bedbug problem? According to the NYC Department of Health (whose free helpful PDF booklet is available here), you will need to contact a professional exterminator. Some companies use specially trained dogs to sniff out the bedbugs and then they spray with powerful chemicals to kill off burgeoning bedbug population. And remember, just getting rid of the bugs isn’t enough. It’s important to get rid of all their eggs, too. Bedbugs hide their tiny eggs in blankets, soft furniture, and even inside favorite stuffed animals…..which unfortunately need to be disposed of to eliminate the eggs.

Mr. Bloodsucker suggested that I end this post on a lighter note.

Q: Did you hear about the bedbug expert who got amnesia? 

A: He had to start from scratch!




Posted by: Liz Nealon

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