Family-Friendly Ways to Fight Bed Bugs

PHOTO The Bedbug Book by Ralph H. Maestre
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Bed-bug expert Ralph H. Maestre explains how to spot bed bugs, bed bug bites, how to get rid of them and how to protect against a bed bug infestation. Maestre sites the increase in travel and immigration for the resurgence of bed bugs. "The times were changing; new immigrants were moving into the neighborhood and were bringing the bed bugs with them," he writes in, 'The Bedbug Book.' He also sites used pieces of furniture as carriers of bed bugs, warning people against picking up furniture that has been discarded on the street. Read more below.

Chapter 5: Case Studies

First Encounter

My first encounter with bed bugs came during a routine visit to a small walk-up apartment building in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York. On the first floor in a railroad style apartment, I met a gentleman from Eastern Europe. He indicated that he was being bitten and pointed to the small bed that was up against the wall in a greatly cluttered room. In broken English, he explained to me that he believed he had brought over from his country some bed bugs. I didn't believe him—remember, bed bugs were not common until just a few years ago. I was repulsed at the thought. I examined the area and did find some. I collected some live samples to take back to the company I was working for at the time. I then treated the area with the only product I had inside my compressed air sprayer—it must have been an organophosphate or carbamate, which is what we used back then. I never treated the mattress directly. I moved the bed away from the wall and treated the cracks and crevices around the bed. I told him to wash the linen repeatedly. I explained that I had to come back to provide follow-up treatment and asked him to take the bed apart for when I returned.

With tremendous patience, this gentleman awaited my arrival one month later. He followed my instructions and had the bed dismantled, which allowed me to treat the bed frame. I also re-treated the perimeter of the entire room. On my third visit, this gentleman told me that he no longer had bed bugs. I was happy and he was happy.

What I learned was that I needed to overcome my own fear of bed bugs, and I was grateful that my first encounter with them was an easy one. I was amazed how patient and tolerant the gentleman was of the pest. He obviously had encountered them before and had learned to deal with them. I would later learn just how tolerant humans can be.

It was during this time in history that the Berlin Wall came down and the Eastern European countries began opening up to international travel and commerce. Bed bugs were about to explode into this country as a result.

Second Encounter

The second time I encountered bed bugs was in the Jackson Heights area of Queens County, New York. Queens is the most diverse borough, with over 140 different countries represented. Of the five boroughs, Queens also has the most trees. Jackson Heights has many prewar apartment buildings which surround interior courtyards. Within one of these apartments that consisted of approximately forty to sixty units in the early 1990s, I got a call to treat for cockroaches. At this time in my career, I was working for my own company.

A lovely young lady in her late twenties lived in a studio apartment. She requested monthly pest control service for cockroaches.

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