When I was a kid, my Mom used to tuck me in at bed time with the admonition, "Sleep tight! Don't let the bedbugs bite!" In my mind, there was no literal interpretation of what she said; it was just a way of telling me she loved me and to sleep well. It wasn't until my Veterinary Entemology class that I even knew that bedbugs were real. Even then, we were taught that bedbugs were no longer a problem in the US thanks to DDT. So...I pretty much forgot about bedbugs.
Now guess what? Theeeey're baaaaack. But you probably already know that if you read Time magazine (they made the cover!), or just about any US newspaper. Thanks to increased overseas travel and the disappearance of DDT, bedbugs have returned with a vengeance! They have been found in five-star hotels, upscale department stores, and homes across the US, but especially in the big cities. People are cancelling travel plans for fear of bedbugs.
The good news is, bedbugs don't spread disease like fleas, lice, and ticks do. However, they're still nasty little creatures that leave an itchy rash when they bite. And they are soooo difficult to eradicate.
Bedbugs look like apple seeds with legs. They tend to come out at night, so you may not see them. They like to live under mattresses and baseboards. Sometimes they leave behind "bedbug poop" which are small round black spots which may be found on bedding, headboards, or near baseboards. Bedbugs do not live on pets or people - they will bite us (or our pets) to take a blood meal and then scurry back to their hiding places.
You need the help of a professional exterminator to get rid of them. Don't even bother with over-the-counter pesticides. Let the exterminator know about your pets, so they can use pet-friendly products. Washing all pet bedding (and cloth toys) with hot soapy water is also recommended. Most pet flea and tick products will not prevent bedbug bites. The best way to protect the pets is to eradicate the bedbugs from the house. DO NOT put insecticides on your pets that are not labeled for such use.
The most effective way to control bedbugs is to avoid them! The ways to do this are beyond the scope of my blog, but here is a link to the CDC's webpage on bedbugs: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/Topics/bedbugs.htm.
Having pets does not increase your risk of acquiring bedbugs! In fact, you are more likely to bring bedbugs to the pet than the pet is to bring bedbugs to you. So do what you can to avoid them, and "Sleep tight..." You know the rest.
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