It’s near epidemic. Bed bugs are infesting hotels, offices, stores and theaters. 

 The ultimate hitchhikers, bed bugs can cross your threshold many ways… along with overnight guests who’ve spent a night in a hotel, inside your luggage after you’ve spent a night in a hotel or a few hours on an airplane, on your clothes after a few hours shopping or at the movie theater… or even through the walls of a neighboring suite.

Books and articles on these stealthy critters reads like a vampire novel. Their eggs are invisible… they can live up to a year without eating…  their bites can look different on different people (making a bed bug problem hard to diagnose)… they can live anywhere we do and especially like burrowing deep into our mattress… a single bug can lay 4 or 5 eggs a day; 300-500 eggs in a lifetime… they’re good at hiding and their flat shape lets them squeeze in and out of tight hiding places… they don’t need a nest, just a place to hide… they head for the bed when you do, but they may hang out somewhere else entirely… and a safe pesticide to eradicate these thirsty predators isn’t available yet…

 The widespread use of DDT all but eradicated the common bed bug in the 1940s and ’50s. But DDT was banned in 1972 as too toxic to wildlife. By the late 1990s, bed bugs had developed resistance to the chemicals that replaced DDT.

 In addition, a 1996 law that required older pesticides to be re-evaluated based on more stringent health standards left exterminators with fewer pesticides available to fight these strong, stealthy pests.

 More of a nuisance than a health hazard, bed bugs are  nonetheless stressful and their bites remarkably itchy. An exterminator can rid your home of them (never spray your mattress with insecticides yourself!). But that can get expensive fast. Keeping bed bugs out of your house is always your first course of action. And if you do get them? Address the problem quickly.

 Photos: MedicineNet.com

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