Bed bugs in clothing – purgatory is the culprit
It is becoming more common that bugs are being spotted in public places such as libraries, office buildings, and schools. Sometimes bugs are spotted on people’s clothing as they are going about their daily activities. How do the bugs get there? We know that when a bed bug finishes it’s meal they will actively get away from the host and hide so it is less likely that bugs would be in clothing worn while sleeping. Why then are the bugs found in clothing?
In terms of background the bed bug is typically found within 5 feet of the bed because the bed bug can “smell” the carbon dioxide from about 5 feet. Also the hatchlings will die at or between 6 and 26 days (depending on humidity) if they do not get a blood meal so it is in the interest of the bed bug to lay eggs within “smelling” distance of a host. Basically any item in a 5 foot radius of a sleeping area is at great risk of being infested with bed bugs – especially rough wood and cloth substrates that bed bugs tend to favour. If you move these items to a public area that area will likely become infested with bed bugs. Items made of plastic, metal, and painted surfaces tend to be less popular with the bed bug and therefore less risky.
The most common item taken from this 5 foot radius of the bed is clothing – specifically clothing that has been worn once but is not dirty enough to warrant washing and is now sitting on a chair beside the bed or even laying on the floor beside the bed. I call this area “purgatory” as these clothes are between dirty and clean or heaven and hell. These clothes are perfect hiding spots for bed bugs. The longer the clothes remain in purgatory the larger the infestation in these clothes. When a person decides that a pair of pants or a sweater is to be redeemed from purgatory and worn it may well be there are hundreds of bed bugs in those clothes. And thus you will notice bed bugs crawling across a person’s clothing in a public area.
So what should you do to avoid infesting the global commons?
Firstly, even if you do not have bed bugs, move your clothing and purgatory to an area further away from the bed. This way if you get bed bugs and do not realize the problem it is less likely you will infest your work place or friend’s home.
Secondly avoid storing anything under your bed. Do not leave your reading material on the head board. Leave your backpack in the living room.
And lastly if you do have bed bugs and are about to leave your home always wear clothes fresh from the dryer as the dryer kills bed bugs. Some people might tell you that laundry is not necessary for bed bug control. On the contrary, killing the bugs on your clothing is vital to avoid infesting public areas. And if you, as a person of habit, bring bugs to a public area it is likely you will bring them back with you 6 weeks later from the public item you infested initially. It is in your own interest to take this issue seriously.