It’s time to relearn the old tricks for fighting against bedbugs.
Most adults don’t remember ever having to deal with bedbugs, but the biting pests have come back with a vengeance.
In New York City, there were 800,000 reported infestations last year alone, said Schenectady Building Inspector Eric Shilling. And that made it “an easy commute” to Schenectady, he said.
“We’re not that far away,” he added. “All you need is one to jump on someone’s coat, their suitcase. … There’s no denying it. They’re here.”
In Schenectady, bedbugs are infesting apartments so often the building department put up a sign telling residents not to come into the office if they’re reporting a problem with bedbugs. They should call instead.
But there is good news.
First of all, bedbugs generally aren’t dangerous. They are annoying, because their bites itch. But they don’t spread disease like ticks and they don’t destroy houses like carpenter ants. They just bite. They’re more like mosquitoes — inside your house.
And although it’s hard to kill them, it is possible to sleep comfortably while you wait for them to die. And it’s also possible to make your home inhospitable so they never get a strong foothold.
The key is the bed.
First, residents should not bring inside any mattresses, box springs or upholstered furniture left on the street. Too often, Shilling said, those items are already infested.
“There’s a reason why it’s on the street,” he said.
But he said most used furniture stores are safe. They usually treat and test their furniture before selling it.
To make beds less appealing to bedbugs, New York City building inspectors now recommend residents zip their mattress into a cover designed to keep dust mites at bay.
Bedbugs can live for one year after their last feeding, so residents with an infestation should keep their mattress covered for at least that long. But the covers also deter new bedbugs, making it less likely for an infestation to take hold.
Residents should regularly inspect the cover and use duct tape to seal any rips.
They should also seal their box springs in a plastic or vinyl bag. The bags are available on Amazon.com for $8.
Pillows need to be sealed too, and all sheets and blankets must be regularly washed in high heat.
The other trouble point is luggage. New York City building inspections say many bedbugs “hitch a ride” home on suitcases from hotels.
They recommend travelers never put their suitcases on the floor, the bed or any upholstered furniture. Realistically, that means stacking them on top of a dresser or on a shelf in the closet.
Before leaving, travellers should inspect the suitcase for any signs of bedbugs — reddish stains, eggs and droppings. Look in seams, tufts, cracks and crevices.
If there’s any reason to suspect bedbugs, get a large plastic, sealable bag and put the luggage in it. At home, anything that can’t be washed in a washing machine on high heat should be hand-scrubbed with hot water and soap.
If an infestation breaks out, Shilling said, a pest control company must be called to kill bedbugs throughout the house. Owners should expect that company to return at least twice to re-treat the worst areas and make sure every bedbug is dead.
He said residents should be on the lookout now.
“This is the time of year that they actually increase,” he said.
He added that landlords should take some “inexpensive steps” to avoid bedbug infestations.
He recommended they hire a pest control company to do a quick evaluation after each tenant moves out. He noted that if they find bedbugs, it’s cheaper to eliminate them when there’s no one living in the apartment.
He also said landlords should add a clause in their leases, forbidding tenants from ever bringing home furniture found on the street.
“There’s a lot of common sense here,” he said.