Sleep Tight . . .

Bedbugs. Courtesy of Orkin, Inc.
Bedbugs. Courtesy of Orkin, Inc.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

With the increase in travel and the demise of pesticides such as DDT, bedbugs have made a comeback in homes and hotels. But how extensive is their resurgence? And what if you actually have them?

Yes. Tiny, Evil -- And in My Bed

It took me a while to figure out what had gone so wrong in our bedroom.

I had had a bad chest infection and spent more time at home than usual trying to get better. Although that seemed to be clearing up, big red welts on my hands, arms and shoulders had begun to spread to my stomach and the side of my face.

My husband had developed some itchy rash, too, after several stops on the presidential campaign trail and a quick trip to Panama for work. But he was back on the road and his rash was clearing up.

For me, things got worse the more time I spent time in bed.

The doctor insisted my spreading welts, a couple of which spawned big bruises, had nothing to do with my waning chest infection. They were bites, he said, and my symptoms were an allergic reaction.

Bites? From being in bed? As in bedbugs in squalid Dickensian flophouses? Chez nous, in our lovingly tended suburban Arlington home? You gotta be kidding. Read More

Hmm. Tiny, Evil -- And Everywhere?

Nobody had seen one in decades. Then, five years ago, they started showing up in homes and hotels across the country, prompting a flood of calls to pest control professionals. And nothing, it seems, can stop them.

No, not bedbugs. Bedbug newspaper stories. Since the return of Cimex lectularius, as the bedbug is formally known, more than 400 articles have wriggled into print, all making roughly the same point: The bloodsucking critters are back, and in numbers that amount to a scourge.

"They're tiny, evil and everywhere in the city," wailed a recent headline in the New York Daily News. USA Today trotted out a "Poltergeist" reference in November with "They're ba-a-ack for a snack. It's easy to say 'Don't let the bedbugs bite' -- until the paranoia-inducing, bloodsucking parasites shake you awake."

Even the overkill-averse New York Times has partaken, spraying the city with no fewer than a dozen bedbug stories in the past five years. "Bedbugs are back," reads a line from a 2005 Times article, "and spreading through New York City like a swarm of locusts on a lush field of wheat." In an attempt to gain the upper hand on this apparent epidemic, the authorities here recently announced three town hall meetings on how to avoid or get rid of bedbugs.

But even in Manhattan -- arguably the nation's capital of bedbug journalism -- calling this problem a plague overstates it. Quite a bit. Read More

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