It seems fitting to be writing this the day before Halloween, given the cringe-inducing nature of this topic. However, I feel compelled to write about this as a Public Service Announcement.
Bed bugs, like the ones your Mom used to warn you against are becoming a serious nuisance in metropolitan areas like Seattle. They first came to my attention a couple of months ago, and my initial reaction was something along the lines of a guffaw. "What's next?", I laughed, "an invasion of unicorns?" Sadly, and disturbingly, bed bugs are real, and they are nasty little bastards.
Essentially, bed bugs are like fleas that drink the blood of humans, as opposed to animals. They tend to live in your mattress and like to crawl onto their "host" in the hours just before dawn. Their bites leave pink or reddish welts, similar to mosquitoes or small spiders. Often, small bloodstains will be visible on the sheets or mattress which, along with their tiny egg sacks, are usually the only evidence to be found during the day without a thorough inspection.
(Ed. note.... I wish I could take my laptop in the shower...just writing about this gives me the heebie-jeebies...)
Bed bugs are highly contagious. They hop onto your clothes while you sleep. They can then be carried around the house, or dropped into a suitcase, if you happen to be traveling. It is widely believed that bed bugs are spread primarily by travelers who pick them up or leave them behind in hotels, which explains why most bed bug outbreaks occur in large cities. According to several pest control experts I've spoken with, the number of bed bug related service calls has increased 10 times in the past 2-3 years. Bed bugs calls are quickly becoming the majority of the business for many companies like Eden and Orkin.
(ed. note... after finally stuffing myself into my haz-mat suit, the heebies are subsiding... the jeebies, not so much...)
What can you do about it? CALL A PROFESSIONAL IMMEDIATELY! I recently worked with Eden to treat a bed bug infestation in an apartment building owned by one of my clients. They were fantastic. And green. They use a cedar-oil-based product that kills the bugs and smells like the hamster cage I had when I was a kid. For details on the treatment process and preventive measures, click here to read and download Eden's Bed Bug Response Plan.
It is important to get the word out before this becomes a full-scale epidemic. If you have any questions about bed bugs, or think you might have them in your home, I highly recommend Mike Cluett at Eden Advanced Pest Technologies. He'll answer your questions and, if necessary, do an inspection, free of charge. On the day of the scheduled treatment, he spent an hour or two explaining the procedures and details to me, off the clock. Additionally, he is qualified to handle just about any kind of pest issue, from rats to bugs to invasive plants. His contact info is:
Mike Cluett 206.510.6285 firstname.lastname@example.org