It’s a famine, an earthquake, no, wait, it just might be a plague! A plague of some of the smallest, yet most inconvenient creatures known to man, and feared by every Hospitality Industry Manager—bed bugs. Whether you're dealing with it now or in an uncomfortable time in the future, I felt that this particular topic merited my attention.
Move over Broadway, you’ve got a competitor for the spotlight now. And don’t let the news headlines fool you. It’s actually much worse than you’re hearing.
In fact, the CDC says that though the bed bugs were uncommon at the start of this century, there has been an alarming resurgence just in the past two years. In fact, some hospitality experts believe that in the last five years, every single hotel in the United States has been infested with bed bugs at one time or another. At the very least, USA Today reported that bed bug problems were up 11% in hotels AND up 11% in the hospitals as well. (That’s a nasty thought, eh?) Why and how? That’s what we need to know; as well as what we can do to combat them.
First of all, the “why” has a lot to do with the increasing resistance to pesticides. We’ve ignored the little buggers while we’ve chased so many other “bad guys.” As a result, they’ve just milled around and become stronger and very mobile. Ready world travel easily allows the unwary passenger to bring them home in their luggage, their clothes, and their carry-on bags. Even if your home is sparkling clean, as soon as your luggage hangs out with the Bed Bug gang, you issue an open borders policy to those critters. The moment you place your suitcase on that hotel comforter that rarely gets washed—even in the luxury hotels—you could easily pick up a hitchhiker or two, to two thousand. If you dare purchase clothing from your favorite store and then wear it immediately, you may have unwittingly given the gang a free pass to your home as well as the other places you go in that snazzy new outfit. Did I mention that you can find them hanging out in subways, rental cars, cruise ships, and the airport transports?
When we had a bed bug outbreak in our home, it was during a period of time in which I was traveling all over the U.S. At first I thought it was fleas from the dogs, which would be unusual for Utah, but a hair-brained idea to say the least. When I started getting bites, more and more each evening, I realized that we had a problem and frankly, I was quite panicked. It seemed to be an insurmountable problem that just fed and fed itself, in spite of all of the laundry and vacuuming that I did. I did the laundry, but then I wasn’t’ sure where I should put the clean clothes. So I then cleaned out all of the cupboards, then did the laundry AGAIN, putting the clean clothes in cupboards in hopes that they wouldn’t be re-infected before I was done washing every single thing in my home! I even convinced myself that if I could just get through this little season of the bites and itching, that they would die off and all would be well. Boy, was I wrong. Ignoring them was as bad as ignoring that bully, Monica Montoya, in 5th grade. They only get worse and more brazen. They literally must be stopped in their tracks.
Bed bugs, like lice, feed on the blood of humans. Lovely, isn’t it? And you thought vampires were the new hotty, eh? Their bites are itchy and usually cause red, inflamed patches. In some instances people can have a serious allergic reaction to their bites and they can also trigger impetigo and other similar secondary infections. Worse, these buggers can live for an entire year without eating.
The largest problem in taking care of these pests though, is that even the CDC and other agencies admit that they are simply unprepared to provide solid information for defense. They’ve even managed to become impervious to DDT! Yes, you can call an exterminator and bring enticing poisons into your home. But even an exterminator can’t guarantee that the problem will be rectified the first time out. Three to four treatments is the norm for a bed bug infestation The reason being is that they hibernate in your laundry, your books, your carpet, your newspaper pile, your mattresses, and even in the hair of your pets. Most responsible pet owners remove their pets from a fumigation environment. That’s the rub. The cure is the nightmare…dusting and fumigating every book, every sheet set, every towel, every corner of carpeting, every coat that’s been in the closet untouched since 1976, and every stitch of clothing you own. Then 2 to three applications of nasty fumes in order to handle the hatching cycle of the bed bugs. To me this is what you call a true nightmare!
Want to know where they are hanging out the most? That would be Florida! (I totally feel sorry for Disney right about now.) But LA, TX, CA, and GA are right behind them in this honor, followed by SC, AL. MO, MI, NY, SD, CT, WA, and NH. (Notice how far down the list NY is, and yet they are ones making the headline news?)
So, is there something you can do that’s actually healthy, effective, and affordable? Yes, in fact there are even some great preventative measures you can take as well so that when you stay at that luxurious hotel your vacation is not ruined with a heightened anxiety.
First of all you’ve got the wonderful, incredibly reliable, diatomaceous earth! I strongly recommend that you feed it regularly to your indoor pets—just a smidge will do—food grade, of course. Secondly, I recommend that you mix a one-two cups of it with a gallon of water and spray it around the outside of your home, under the steps, under your floor mats, all around your laundry room, inside your car, and throughout your garage. Remember, diatomaceous earth kills ALL insects. You can also use it as an indoor spray in your drawers, on your mattresses, etc. I recommend that you do this now, before you have an unpleasant group of visitors.
Another option I would heartily recommend is an Essential Oil Application. I would take 10 drops of Copiaba, 6 drops of Eucalyptus, and 5 drops of Cedarwood and mix it with 4 ounces of filtered water (not distilled). Put it in a little sprayer bottle*, preferably dark in color, and spray away! Comforters, luggage, carpets, linens (especially those in the hotel), etc. You should also spray a bit of this in your vacuum bag, air vents, and laundry room. This is a heck of a lot less expensive than the chemicals from your extermination companies; and there are actually a whole lot of very positive side benefits as well. For example, cedarwood has a very high ORAC value, which means that as you inhale it around your home, you’ll be helping battle free radicals in your body and strengthening you immune system—nice time of year to be thinking about that, isn’t it? Copiaba has known anti-inflammatory constituents, so inhaling that wonderful oil won’t be bad either. Eucalyptus helps to clean the brains receptor sites which aids in eliminating restless behavior, and it also strengthens your lungs. (I recommend this one often when helping someone stop smoking. One drop on the tobacco portion of the cigarette and it turns it into a nasty-stick. )
Next, put a couple drops of this mixture in a cold air diffuser in your home. Diffuse for about 20 minutes, three times a day.
Next, add 5 drops of this concoction to your laundry loads.
Next, I recommend that you use just the oil portion of the concoction and get a bag of cotton balls. Put a single drop of the essential oil on each cotton ball. Put two cotton balls in each of your clothing and linen drawers or cupboards. If you have an extensive library of books, place the cotton balls methodically behind the books on each book shelf. You can also use these same cotton balls and put them in a “sachet” bag and safety pin them to the corners of your bed—both at home AND at the hotel. Traveling with the treated cotton balls in your luggage and NOT placing your luggage on the bed in the hotels, will also help you eliminate unwanted guests (not the human kind though, folks). I recommend doing this cotton ball routine every 2 months for the next 5-6 months. It also wouldn't hurt to bathe your dog or cat in a bath tub of water with two drops of the “Tick-a-Boo” oil in it. If you follow this advice now, and in the midst of an infestation, your troubles will either pass you by or be completely eliminated.
Treat any bites you may get with lavender, helichrysum, or geranium essential oil.
By all means, wash new clothing before wearing it. When preparing for a trip, pack as much of your clothing in those sealing kinds of plastic bags as possible, or at least use these preventative measures I’ve shared, to ensure that you neither catch, nor carry, these nasty little bugs.
I certainly hope this helps. It sure made my life healthier, easier, and safer. Not to mention my legs stopped looking like I just ran a marathon in a mosquito infested swamp!
*Note: pure and truly potent essential oils cannot be stored in a plastic container so use a glass or a coated metal spray bottle.