02 May Bed bugs and the chicken dance

When professional persons such as health care workers must visit a suite that has bed bugs it has been suggested that stomping the feet and vigorously shaking the clothes will remove the bugs. I refer to this maneuver as the “chicken dance.” But is this dance effective?

The chicken dance is premised on the idea that bed bugs are not able to cling to cloth and are dislodged easily. This might be true for some fabrics but is utterly false for other cloth. For example, I often find myself collecting bed bug samples from mattresses and box springs and find that once a bed bug is in flight mode on the loose fabric under a box spring it is basically impossible to get them off without killing them first. The bug will actively attempt to burrow under the fibers and you will not get that bug off. So I suggest the effectiveness of the dance is really dependant on the type of clothing one is wearing.

Also, when I am treating bed bugs in a suite I wear a one piece coverall to keep the bugs out of my belt line. When I return home the coverall instantly goes into a dryer in my garage and my work shoes will never enter my home. My work clothes and my street clothes are separate.

In one severe infestation I noted that there were in fact numerous bugs climbing on my coveralls during treatment. I was afraid to sit in my truck even after I removed my coveralls and I walked home to change clothes. There was no amount of chicken dancing that could convince me that the bugs were all off. And I suspect that persons suggesting the chicken dance as public policy would probably follow my example if confronted with a similar situation. I think the chicken dance, while it might be helpful in some circumstances, has far to much risk of failure to be taken seriously.