Back in my college days, I was traveling across North Africa with my buddy John. What an adventure! We bought new mopeds in Lisbon, rode them down to the ferry at Gibraltar, and got off in Tetouan, Morocco. We drove slowly across Morocco, stopping along the way, drinking in the sights, sounds, and colors of our first ever Arabic country, and learning how to keep the tough selling kids at bay (“Hello Joe! You want to buy these ____?”).
When we crossed into Algeria, we spent a night in a hotel in Algiers. Road weary, we fell into bed and crashed into sleep. John woke up after a few hours, restless, and said, “Turn the light on, I can’t get comfortable and want to see what I’m wrapped up in.” I complied, and we both did a horrific gasp, “Damn! Bed bugs!!!”
Indeed, there they were, crawling in the sheets right under us. Grossed out, we left the room for the rooftop, and traded the comfort of a mattress for our sleeping bags laid out on concrete. Oh well, the air was better up there and no bed bugs would bite us.
The Creepy Bed Bug Resurgence
In the past 10 years or so, we’ve been reading about the buggers moving back into major areas of the US again, after being gone for a long time, since the late ’40s according to most accounts. Theories as to the reason for the comeback include pesticide resistance, shorter-lasting pesticides than DDT (which wreaked havoc on the ecosystem), and increased international travel of our population.
These bugs, while causing rashes and discomfort when they feed on people and pets, have so far not been associated with disease transmission, though researchers have found hepatitis B virus DNA present both in the bugs and in their excrement.
Dogs to the Rescue!
And they are damned hard to control, partly because they are well hidden during the day and mostly able to crawl on you and suck your blood without disturbing you much at night. So, as more hotels, hostels, dorms, and apartments are becoming infested, “sniffer dogs” have been employed to detect them, with great success. New Yorkers are advised to test for their presence before signing a lease.
What to Do to Kill Them?
This is a thorny problem, as most pesticides used are:
- toxic to people and pets
- not long lasting
- not reaching the bed bugs’ hiding places
DDT is just not a great option, though it was long lasting and seemed to work for a long time. Years of its use almost wiped out several species, especially those higher in the food chain, like our beloved Bald Eagle.
Natural? Yeah, but so’s cyanide!
Pyrethrins are often touted as “natural” because their origin is the chrysanthemum flower. They are called “botanical pesticides” by this virtue. And they are widely used, along with their man-made analog, “permethrins,” which are significantly more toxic to people. Compare the ratings of pyrethrins to permethrins on these two pages. You can readily see they are both a risk to honey bees and beneficial insects, like predatory wasps that are often released to help control flies and other pests. And runoff, especially of the latter group, is quite toxic to fish and aquatic life.
Professional pesticide companies use these very commonly together. They are neurotoxins. They kill by paralyzing the insect and causing its death by asphyxiation. As you might guess, people have neurological effects from exposure as well.
And then there’s the Big C: we’ve known for many years that pesticide exposure increases the risk of cancer significantly. The more exposure, the greater the risk.
You don’t want these chemicals in your sleeping quarters!
Solution: Enter Nature, Stage Right
The folks at Wondercide have some effective natural products made from Texas Cedar oil. Their product called BioDefense is both preventative and treatment, and is entirely non-toxic to the pets and people of the house. The good Wondercide folks will even sell you a kit complete with a fogger to get the job done right.
But, and this is what counts: it kills bed bugs and nukes their eggs on contact! Measured efficacy is 100% in an hour after application.
In addition, they’ve got a nice product for using on your own body, a natural repellent to mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, flies, you name it: BiterFighter. Great name, right? Says it all. No DEET or other harmful ingredients, and it actually moisturizes your skin while it’s repelling the bad guys.
Okay, a disclaimer is due. The links above are my recommendations as an affiliate of the Wondercide company. Purchasing through these links will, without additional cost to you, earn me a few bucks. If you do buy something through these links, thank you.
But I’m a big fan of Wondercide. They are a boot-strapped business run by a gal with a lot of pluck who’s not afraid to provide service after the sale. Please give them your business, even if you don’t care to click the links I’ve provided.