Bedbugs are a national scourge that has the potential to affect all of us. To help perplexed and overwhelmed local health departments and jittery consumers alike, last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held the Second Annual National Bed Bug Summit: Advancing Towards Solutions to the Bed Bug Problem in Washington, D.C.
Experts suggested integrated pest management tactics such as using dessicant dust, mattress encasements, removing clutter, using a vacuum cleaner, chemical treatments (when applied correctly) and heat. "The clothes dryer is the number-one line of defense,” Dr. Dini Miller of Virginia Tech University told attendees. “Clutter removal also helps by removing bed bug hiding places."
Dr. Harold Harlan of the Armed Forces Pest Management Board said controlling bed bugs is difficult because “it is nearly impossible to find every bed bug in a room, insects are often identified as bed bugs incorrectly, treatments are often ineffective because the bugs are inaccessible, and bed bugs have developed resistance to certain insecticides."
Some of the most effective chemicals used to eliminate bed bugs have been banned in recent decades. I’ve found the following information on naturally preventing and killing the nasty pests; if you suspect an infestation, it’s best to call a professional.
1. Clean thoroughly and often. Wash and dry all bedding in hot water. Scrub down and vacuum floors and other surfaces. Dismantle furniture so you can easily clean hard-to-reach surfaces where bed bugs could be hiding.
2. Caulk all cracks. Seal up any holes where bed bugs could crawl into your home—especially if you live in an apartment or townhouse and share common walls.
3. Buy less stuff, keep less stuff. Clutter is habitat for bed bugs. And the less you buy, the less your chance of bringing home bed bugs.
4. Inspect everything. Thoroughly inspect everything before you bring it home. This is true not only of flea market and secondhand purchases or Dumpster finds, but also of items from upscale retailers. Bed bugs infested Abercrombie & Fitch retail outlets in Manhattan. Don’t let them sneak in on your teenager’s hoodie.
5. Fumigate—with heat. Services that use heat to kill bed bugs are proliferating. After tenting off all or part of your home, the company will heat your house to about 130 degrees, killing bed bugs without leaving behind a chemical residue.
Don't spread bed bugs unwittingly. Label infested and discarded items so no one else brings them home.