You May Not Be Alone
Here's how you can keep those bedbugs from biting
Some people take bedbugs in stride; for others, killing them becomes almost an obsession. Exterminators, entomologists, and Internet forums are full of war stories: a girl from New York who dumped 5 gallons of insecticide on her mattress; people who have claimed multimillion-dollar damages in court; a photographer from New York who started microwaving her books; and a woman from West Virginia who sprays herself with pesticides before climbing into her bed.
Such stories of misery cause some experts to argue that the problem has been blown completely out of proportion. "Some people in the industry are grandstanding," says Richard Pollack, an entomologist at Harvard University, who notes that mosquitoes, which spread a number of deadly diseases, are a greater health threat. "People have to make sure they don't fall prey to stories that are more alarming than they are factual," says George Rambo, former technical director of the National Pest Control Association and a consultant who points out that even with rising rates of bedbug infestations, the overall number remains relatively low. People who are alarmed should keep in mind that most don't react to the biteswhich not that long ago were a fact of life.
Anyway, Pollack says, with time and patience, most infestations can be eliminated. "I have people who call me in tears. They're in hysterics," he says. "My response is to put things in perspective. This is not a terminal illness. Being upset is not going to kill any bedbugs."
Occasionally the critters win. Kyle Anderson tried bug bombs, obsessive vacuuming and laundering, and pleading with his landlord to get the pests under control, but nothing worked. After more than seven months of waking up with bites, he surrendered and moved.