Wherever you go, they’ll be there. You might meet them on the bus, in a hotel room, even when travelling by airplane. They’ll come home with you uninvited, and are almost impossible to get rid of once they’ve moved in. Expensive and inconvenient don’t even cover it — these creepy roommates will cause sleepless nights and literally suck the life right out of you. Even if you are lucky enough to get rid of them, the psychological impact of their presence might haunt you for years. They’re bed bugs.
In an interview with The Telegraph earlier this year, Brian Virag, a former criminal defence attorney now turned full-time Bed Bug Attorney, clarified the claim that bed bugs have become a global epidemic by dropping this frightening statistic: “One in five people have either been exposed to bed bugs or know somebody who has.”
This might sound all-too-familiar for some, given that Edmonton was ranked sixth-worst city in Canada for bed bugs in a 2017 news release from Orkin Canada, one of the largest pest control companies in the nation. According to a 2017 interview with CBC, Derek Chester, owner of Responders Pest Control, also noted that high-traffic places, such as universities and their surrounding neighbourhoods, are particularly vulnerable to infestations.
For students of MacEwan University who intend to live on campus, the good news is that Residence Services takes the pest problem very seriously. Twice a year MacEwan Residence undergoes canine inspection (once at the end of April after residents have moved out, and again in mid-August just before students return). During the rest of the year, any reported suspicions of bed bugs are investigated and then treated by a pest-control company, though thankfully, to date all reported suspicions have not turned up any pests.
If you’re lucky enough to have never had bed bugs and want to keep it that way, there are things you can do to prevent the unwelcome houseguests.
Vigilance is key.
Though most bed bug bites result in an itchy red mark, the Scientific American reports that about 30 per cent of people won’t have any kind of reaction, allowing for an infestation to go unnoticed until other signs, such as blood spotting on bedding or insect fecal matter and husk sheds accumulate. You can avoid this nasty surprise by routinely checking your sleeping area and other soft furniture, such as the couch.
Pull your mattress away from the wall and check all four sides, making sure to lift the mattress up from the box spring, checking underneath and along any seams. The same goes for couches — lift the cushions and if you can check the underside and any seams where a bed bug might want to hide. Adult bed bugs are approximately the size of an apple seed, very flat (unless they’ve just fed, in which case they appear swollen) and reddish-brown in colour.
Spend a little to save a lot.
No product can guarantee you will never have to deal with bed bugs, but there are a few worthy investments:
Mattress encasements can help prevent the bugs from being able to access your box spring or mattress, making them easier to spot and get rid of.
Likewise, special bed bug traps placed underneath furniture legs act as interceptors and can prevent the insects from climbing up to the soft parts of your bed. They also serve as early detection devices — as a bug in a trap is a good sign there might be more in your space.
Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic powder which can be used as a barrier and mild pesticide — sprinkle it in any cracks or along any edges that you think bed bugs might hide. It has to stay completely dry to be effective but is a much more pet-safe option than other bed bug sprays or liquids, and because it physically compromises their exoskeleton is not a product that the bugs can build up a resistance to.
A small garment steamer is also a worthwhile commitment, given that high temperatures are one of the only effective means of destroying both adult bed bugs and their prolific eggs. Regularly steaming your furniture not only keeps things crisp and clean, but it also cuts down on the likelihood of successful reproduction.
Establish good habits.
Just because the bugs might be anywhere doesn’t mean that they have to hitchhike home with you. Use wall hooks and metal luggage racks instead of placing purses or luggage on beds when visiting a hotel, or go even further by storing your suitcase in the bathtub, which bedbugs will struggle to climb into or out of.
Brush off when leaving public transport, and take the time to wash and dry your clothing on high heat if you think you might have travelled in a vehicle where bed bugs were present.
Don’t be ashamed.
Having bed bugs really bites, literally. Getting rid of them is hard and can sometimes be expensive, but when it comes to successful extermination, speed is of the essence. If you are unfortunate enough to find a bed bug in your home, don’t let embarrassment stop you from seeking professional help. The sooner you have support, the sooner the problem will be taken care of.