September 29, 2011
As I entered my hotel room and looked for a place to set my suitcase, the first thought that crossed my mind was, “bed bugs.” I had my arms filled with luggage of various kinds: laptop, suitcase, purse, cloth bag with my water bottles and food. I avoided the bed itself and placed what I could onto the coffee table. Setting my purse down on the couch resulted in my grabbing it quickly and moving it on top of the growing pile on the coffee table.
Last year, when I walked into a hotel room, my first thought was usually about how spacious or cramped the room was. Often, I found myself in rooms that felt luxurious to me. Plenty of space, fridge, microwave, and a sitting area. One time, I even had access to two rooms: a deluxe suite!
After watching two friends go through a bed bug infestation, I’m not so keen on hotel rooms anymore. On top of that, last spring I watched a newscast about bed bugs that are being found to be resistant to the “super virus.” I’m not sure why this would be such a concern because bed bugs don’t transmit any diseases. They simply bite, which often irritates our skin.
But bed bugs do elicit a certain level of horror. In her research into the bed bug infestation she was dealing with, one friend told me it was because these bugs infiltrate our most private spaces: our bedrooms. Interestingly enough, mosquitoes also infiltrate the same spaces, but we don’t attach the same level of anguish with mosquitoes. Even with the threat of the West Nile Virus. Bed bugs, however, go farther than mosquitoes. They crawl right into bed with us. And that fuels the horror we feel when thinking about bed bugs.
There seems to be shame attached to bed bugs, just as there is shame attached to lice. Myths surround both types of insects. Most of these myths are false. Neither bed bugs nor lice are attracted to dirty, substandard conditions. In fact, lice, in particular, prefer clean environments in which to live. As for bed bugs, they will survive anywhere. Regular cleaning simply allows you to detect a bed bug infestation quickly. It doesn’t prevent the infestation from occurring in the first place. Cleaning up the clutter simply reduces the areas where bed bugs can hide. It won’t prevent the bed bugs from coming in.
Bed bugs attach themselves to our luggage when we are traveling. They may come into our homes through second hand mattresses and furniture. They can even be found on used clothing. With the increased number of people traveling and new limits on pesticides, bed bugs have spread. And that is nothing to be ashamed about.
Rather, if we simply take precautions, we might prevent a few bed bugs from turning into a nightmare. And if we realize that we have an infestation on our hands, then it’s time to act, not hide.
So now I do what I have been advised to all these years. I pull back the sheets and check the mattress for telltale signs. I lift the mattress and look for evidence of bed bugs on the box spring. I set my suitcase on the foldout stand. I put my stuff on top of the shelving, not on the floor. And I leave my clothes in my suitcase rather than unpacking them and putting them into the dresser drawers.