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City, Science

Pesky Bug Blues: more than you ever wanted to know about apartment infestation

Posted by Trixie / July 13, 2006

bedbugs3.jpg I'm posting this very amusing and informative email from MP Special Correspondent Kristopher Rosadiuk on the subject of Cockroaches and Bedbugs:

Hi fellow urban-dwellers. I have recently moved into my very own apartment here in the big city. Though my phone and Internet have not been hooked up yet, I have nonetheless found the time during my lunch-hour at work to surf the net and collect fascinating factoids that I wish to share with you all. Random and unrelated facts. Just the things that caught my eye. Nothing to do with, say, the state of my apartment. So here we go!

-- COCKROACHES can be killed using a variety of gel based insecticides and traps, but a simple home-made cure is to mix equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar, which is tasty and toxic.

-- Another good way to kill cockroaches is with boric acid, available as a powder from most drugstores (I used to play with boric acid all the time as a kid. It burns PALE GREEN).

-- Cockroaches hate bay leaves. Just hate them. They flee from the bay leaf.

-- Cockroaches are attracted by the smell of cockroach feces, so naturally they apply it liberally wherever they go. Cleaning your home thoroughly makes it less of a romantic meeting place.

-- Cockroaches like garbage, but they can go for months without eating.
No, what they really need is water, and on a daily basis. So the best way
to keep roaches from proliferating is to fix leaks, insulate cold water
pipes, clean up spills, and dry your dishes. Dehumidifiers can also help.

-- When you've been making cookies late into the night, and you spill some baking soda, and then you wake after a cockroachy night of hating all cockroaches to find one lying on your countertop, broken and dying, like some twitchy old trench-coat man, it kind of humanizes them, you know?

-- For years, exterminators took care of cockroaches using massive doses of DDT, the fallout from which seriously threatened many other species. Happily, the ban on DDT means that these threatened species are now flourishing, and we'll all soon benefit from encountering these precious miracles of nature up close. Like the magnificent peregrin falcon. And bedbugs.

-- Increased international travel and lack of bedbug awareness means that bedbug infestations are swelling across North America. Cleanliness has nothing to do with it; many of New York's ritziest hotels and apartments are currently BEDBUGULAR.

-- Of all the things that suck the living blood out of you, the bedbug is perhaps the most elegant (vampire bats don't suck; they lick). Sleek and small like a flattened apple seed, russet brown, swift of foot; when engorged with your blood, they might remind you of a tiny, shiny heart... running away on horrible scampering legs.

-- Bedbugs don't just live in beds: they hide in mattress seams, undisturbed clothing, furniture, carpets, cracks, floorboards and curtains. Then they wake up every few days, and follow your warmth and your breath so as to cuddle up with you. Much like kitties, but smaller and more nightmarish.

--Bedbug bites are like mosquito bites, but usually larger, puffier, and itchier. They also may not start swelling for as long as three days after the fact. Best identifier is that they bite multiple times, often in long rows (though the bite is painless, it disturbs sleep, so you move, it bites, you move, it bites, etc).

--Bedbugs mate by traumatic insemination, a trait they share with giant squid, among other things. This means that the male possesses, in place of a penis, a sort of groin harpoon with which he stabs his mate, injecting sperm. They often get confused and do this to other males. Though this is their natural means of reproduction, you will still feel bad when you see it happen.

-- You can make your very own bedbug observation post, or 'Fortress of Solitude'. All you need are four flat bottomed dishes (metal or plastic) and some time. Like if you live within screaming distance from Little Italy, and Italy has won the World Cup, and you won't be getting to bed anytime soon: that will be enough time.

1) Start by taking apart your bed and searching it for bedbugs. Use something pronged to run through the seams and pop them out. Put the ones you capture inside a little clear container, so that you can observe them close to your face.
2) Bedbug free? Are you sure? Check again.
3) Put a little water into each dish, and place them under each leg of the bed. You've made a moat. Lay down a barrier of carpenter's tape to catch invaders in the act. Then spray the bed legs to be sure.
4) Now sit on the bed and feel safe (check your clothes first!). Pick up your prison box and laugh at the bedbugs. Laugh.
5) Go show those Italians how to REALLY get down.

--Bedbugs can live for up to 18 months without feeding. Boy does that make them cranky! They'll also travel as far as 100 feet for a snootful of the good stuff. This makes getting rid of them tricky, even if you have a Fortress of Solitude. However, if you're game, and patient, and don't own very much that needs cleaning, you can do it yourself. Bag and wash all your clothes in hot water, dry at high heat (putting it in the freezer or out in the sun is unreliable). Manually inspect what you must. Raid makes a pyrethrin based insecticide (derived from chrysanthemums) that should be applied to hard-to-reach-crevices ($6.99). Lay down powders that contain diatomaceous earth (a chalk made from diatoms, a microscopic shelled creature)-- these abrade and dry bugs out (cockroaches too!). It should take about two weeks before you'll be clean, if you are zealous.

Amazing? Amazing.

Now that's news you can use.

(About the Author: Kris is wondering if he had this coming, you know, karmically.)



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Alana / August 9, 2009 at 10:43 pm
I am currently housesitting for someone who has an infestation of cockroaches. The first week here I had personally slayed over 80 with a flyswatter - SO GROSS! Professional baits had been laid before I arrived, but clearly have not been effective. Your site is by far the best overall resource that I have found in 2 weeks of researching these evil little pests. Thanks!!!


PS: any tips on how to protect or treat my items before I leave so I do not bring them home with me?
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