Bedbugs and spring break make poor bedfellows

Bedbugs making a combackAs if you didn't have enough to worry about, the fine folks at one of the nation's largest pest control companies are warning that bedbugs could be awaiting your arrival at your spring break destination.

The nocturnal blood suckers (no, this is not an episode of Twilight masquerading as a blog post) can hide in mattresses, pillow cases, closet floors, even luggage racks, according to the company, which claims it has located (and apparently not fully eradicated) them in hotels in all 50 states.

The all-points-bulletin may sound self-serving -- and it may be self-serving too -- but it's enough to make you stay home with your head under the covers. Oh, whoops! Have to check there for bedbugs, too, because, the news release screams, "Traveling is what bed bugs do best. They're hitchhikers."
Splurging is no insurance against bug bites.

"Unlike many pests, sanitation is not a factor when it comes to bedbugs," the release continues. "These bugs are just as likely to show up in a five-star resort as a roadside motel."

Bolstering these concerns as more than just pesticide marketing, the National Pest Management Association recently noted that pest management companies have reported a 71% increase in bedbug calls since 2001, particularly in metropolitan areas. The bugs were largely MIA in this country for years, thanks to DDT, but have hitchhiked back from global locales.

So it's no longer necessary to travel to encounter them. Thursday's New York Times profiles Cruiser the bedbug sleuthdog that can "detect a single live bug or egg with 96% accuracy" within minutes.

New York's Department of Housing Preservation and Development reports verified bedbug infestations rose from 82 six years ago to more than 4,000 last year in rental properties alone. The bugs can travel along wiring and pipes, even crawl through cracks in walls.

"In this city of 8.3 million," the Times adds, "it seems as if everyone has a bedbug story."

Lacking Cruiser, we are left to rely on our human senses to find and avoid the bugs, the company release offers the following advice:
  • Inspect the mattress, looking for black spots on seams.
  • Examine cracks and crevasses in the luggage rack.
  • Before you check out, inspect your luggage and clothing for stowaways.
  • Store luggage in your garage and wash and dry clothes immediately on your return.

The National Pest Management Association adds a few more:
  • Bring a flashlight on your trip to ease inspection.
  • Consider storing your suitcase in a plastic bag in your hotel room.
  • Vacuum out your suitcase on your return.

Believe it or not, the association is so concerned about a recent resurgence of the insects it last week hosted a "Bed Bug Symposium" in Canada. To encourage candor, the association offered anonymity to attendees who wanted to "ask questions of the expert instructors." Guess they figured it might scare away potential customers to know there are creepy crawly things lurking under their sheets, waiting to bite them in the dark.

"When traveling, the last souvenirs you want to bring home are bedbug bites or actual bedbugs themselves," Ron Harrison, the unnamed-by-us pest management company's technical director, said in a written statement. "Getting rid of bedbugs at home -- once you have them -- can be very difficult without a professional."

Goodnight. Sleep tight.
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