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Bed Bugs Make Comeback in MA: What You Can Do

August 30, 2010

BOSTON - Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite . . . that old nighttime send-off is on the tips of more tongues these days as bedbugs make a comeback in Massachusetts and elsewhere. The resurgence is attributed to increased travel, an overall lack of awareness and the stigma surrounding these hard-to-eliminate pests, according to Dr. Dini Miller, a national expert who is associate professor in urban pest management at Virginia Tech. She says the little blood-suckers can be found in all kinds of places, from hotel rooms and college dorms to apartment buildings. And now that they're back, she says, the best form of prevention is awareness.

"We don't think twice about putting our bag in the seat next to us if we go to the movies; about storing our son's or daughter's college furniture in our basement. These are all ways that bedbugs can get into the home."

She says mature bedbugs are easy to spot. They're roughly the size and shape of an apple seed, although immature ones can be much smaller. She adds that using mattress covers to keep them on the outside of the bed is a good idea. Washing sheets, clothing, stuffed animals and bags won't always get rid of them, she says, but ten minutes in a hot dryer kills both the bedbugs and their eggs.

Miller says it's important not to go after bedbugs with chemical insecticides on your own, without calling a professional. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has expressed concerns over exposing children to such chemicals, but Miller says there are some non-chemical alternatives, such as food-grade diatomaceous earth.

"Put it out in a light dusting around the baseboards, edges of the carpet. You can actually even put this on a mattress, on the box springs; it's a very benign material, but it sticks to the bedbugs, absorbs the wax layer on the outside of their body and basically dries them out."

She says it's important to use only the food-grade material, not the kind of diatomaceous earth used for pool filters, which can be dangerous.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA