19 May How to avoid getting bed bugs.

Several years ago our friends, who live in a 4000 square foot  11 bedroom rooming house, discovered bed bugs. Their house church was having a meeting in their living room when a bed bug climbed out of a bible and was noticed by the group. Most people did not know what it was but a few visitors from a Manitoba Housing apartment block knew what it was, left immediately, and never came back. It is a funny story now but at the time it was a pretty traumatic event.

I was asked to inspect the home and bed bugs were found in 4 out of 11 bedrooms. Two were lightly infested, one was moderately infested, and one was severely infested and had been empty for several months. As treatment continued a fifth bedroom was found to have a bed bug in an interceptor and a dead bug was discovered in the living room making for a rather substantial infestation. This home has been bug free for several years now.

The difficulty for our house church community was that this home typically served as a gathering point. Furthermore my kids and their kids were friends and visited each other often. How then do we protect all our community members from bed bugs? Do we abandon our friendships and church relationships to avoid getting bed bugs?

Fortunately all relationships remained unscathed. It was decided that this home would cease to be a gathering point until the bugs were gone and other homes, including mine, would take up the meeting duties. Secondly it was requested that anyone who lived in that home would put on freshly heat sterilized clothing (from the dryer) before visiting anyone else. And when our kids visited their home a freshly sterilized set of clothes was waiting for them in the garage before they entered our home.

The result was that no one else in our community got bed bugs – our family included. The unfortunate family with bed bugs was included in all our regular events and remained an integral part of our community.

Several years later a different family in our community had a tiny infestation of bed bugs which was addressed pronto. The family took all the same precautions the first family took, remained included in all events, and remained an integral part of our community. Interestingly enough, on one occasion, they were invited to another home outside our community, were greeted at the door with accusations of bed bugs, and were unceremoniously prevented from entering the home. I do not know what happened to those relationships but I suspect ignorance of bed bug precautions may have caused harm. With proper education that harm could have been prevented.

As evidenced above preventing the spread of bed bugs is a relatively simple affair. Take the following precautions:

  1. If you have bed bugs make sure you wear freshly sterilized clothing before leaving the house
  2. keep items that can not be heat sterilized as far away from the sleeping areas as possible. Avoid taking non sterilized items out of the home if at all possible.
  3. When visiting infested areas take clean clothes with you in a bag. When leaving ask to use the bathroom and change clothes. Put the potentially infested clothing in the original bag and seal. Upon returning home place entire bag in the dryer on high heat for 20 minutes.  In one experiment I put a plastic garbage bag in the dryer on hot for 45 minutes in a laundrymat  and it did not melt.  I prefer using cloth pillow cases.
  4. Never use  pyrethrin based self treatments. The bugs will be pushed around the home into areas that are not commonly infested. This in turn makes the home and it’s contents more dangerous.