Monday, November 10, 2008

Exterminators: Bedbugs making a comeback

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Bedbugs were once considered all but eradicated, but exterminators say the bugs are making a comeback.

If you buy a new bed, you may think you don’t have to worry about bedbugs, but that isn’t always the case.

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Just a few weeks ago, Jacob Bowman, 12, was waking up in the mornings covered in welts.

His mom and doctors were mystified.

One night, Jacob awoke to find his bed crawling with bugs. He said he freaked out; so did his mom.

"I pulled the mattress up, pulled the box spring up and when we saw the black spots, which were the eggs ... I pretty much kind of lost it,” said Jacob’s mom, Maureen Bowman.

Bowman had recently purchased her son a new mattress and box springs. It turns out they were infested with bedbugs.

That’s when the real ordeal began.

Exterminator Tim McCarthy found bugs everywhere.

"There were bed bugs in the wall coverings, (on) pictures (and) a clock,” McCarthy said.

The Bowmans house was turned inside out.

Bedding and clothing was bagged up and Bowman’s sons were sent packing.

“Three of the boys’ bedrooms (were) shut off for three weeks. They were sleeping in family rooms,” Bowman said.

Such drastic measures are necessary because bedbugs are survivors. They suck blood and can go a year or more without feeding.

The bugs are tiny -- about the size of a tick -- and rarely come out during the day, so they’re hard to spot.

McCarthy said homeowners should thoroughly inspect any bedding before it’s purchased.

"Kind of roll it back a little bit. You'll see … blood spots … if there are bugs,” McCarthy said.

Check for bedbugs as soon as you suspect anything. Do it at night like Jacob did.

"Just wake up at midnight, and just look on your bed. Are there any bugs crawling around?,” McCarthy said.

The bites themselves can be hard to identify. If they are lined up in a row, that’s one good sign of bed bugs.

Once you fid the bugs, you have to be thorough. Everything in the room must be treated.

But McCarthy said you can kill bugs in bedding or clothing without pesticides by washing and drying the articles at a temperature above 140 degrees for 10 minutes.

"If you can do that, you'll effectively kill the egg casings and adults,” McCarthy said.

The most common cause of bedbugs on new mattresses is cross-contamination -- when new bedding is shipped or stored with old bedding.

New bedding should also be wrapped in some sort of plastic.

The store that sold the Bowmans their bed is covering the family’s exterminating cost, which in some cases can top $1,000.

Is this sign that America is becoming a third world country?

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