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In 1933, the mighty King Kong held New Yorkers in the grip of terror. These days it's a very tiny critter that has New York City squirming in fear and revulsion: The bed bug.
Bed bugs have been found creeping and crawling all over the Big Apple, from swank co-ops to rentals in less-tony zip codes, from the Brooklyn DA's office to King Kong's old haunt, the Empire State Building. They've forced the temporary closing of retail stores, college buildings and movie theaters until the problem could be resolved.
Now, bed bugs are bringing terror to a neighborhood near you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States is experiencing an "alarming resurgence in the population of bed bugs."
The use of DDT-a now-banned pesticide-kept bed bug populations under control after World War II. But three factors have led to this icky resurgence:
• An increase in travel--bugs and eggs can hitchhike in clothing and luggage;
• An increase in bed bug resistance to available pesticides;
• And a decrease in our knowledge regarding bed bug control.
The only thing spreading faster than bed bugs has been the fear of them. But frightening as they are, bed bugs don't spread disease as much as stigma. The apple seed-sized parasites (oval and reddish brown) hide in mattress crevices, behind headboards, between floorboards. Then they come out in the dark and feast on us, gorging on blood.
They do so without disturbing us because (smart buggers) they inject their unsuspecting prey with an anticoagulant and an anesthetic. The result: Itchy welts and bumps, and a whole lot of psychological distress, including but not limited to insomnia and anxiety.
Some people may have no physical reaction from bed bug bites, while others may experience a more severe allergic reaction. Look to your mattress for other signs of a bed bug infestation:
• Dark specks--bed bug poop!
• Small blood smears, the result of crushed, engorged bed bugs;
• And empty light brown exoskeletons--bed bugs molt five times.
So how do you get rid of them? First, have patience. Eliminating of bed bugs can be a long and sometimes expensive process. Time is your friend, but unfortunately for those who want to starve them out, bed bugs can go for up to a year without feeding (that's where a storage unit can come in handy).
Heat is also your friend: wash and dry items in temperatures above 120 degrees. In the summer, bag infested items and bake them in your car. As for your mattress and box spring, encase them in plastic to keep old bugs in and new ones out or toss them.
The CDC recommends an "integrated pest management" approach which involves, among other things, monitoring, removing clutter where bed bugs can hide, applying heat treatment, vacuuming, sealing cracks and crevices, and using pesticides.
Or you can call the exterminator.
Related Links:Bed Bugs: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
The Bed Bug Epidemic in Detail
How to Spot Bedbugs and Get Rid of Them
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