Family-Friendly Ways to Fight Bed Bugs

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On this particular visit, she explained to me that she had been receiving bites at night on a regular basis for several weeks. Being late summer, I asked her if she kept her windows open at night or if she went for evening walks. She said that neither applied. I then asked a rare question. "Did you buy a used piece of furniture or pick something up used?" She said yes. "I picked up this used chair in the curbside trash."

Many individuals comb the trash for items that may be recycled, and furniture is one of the top items taken. This is actually illegal in the city of New York. Once an item is placed out for trash, then it becomes the property of the Department of Sanitation. They rarely issue a summons for such an act. At the time I had known some DSNY personnel to take furniture and bicycles to refurbish and resell. This practice is less common now.

I examined the chair and found evidence of bed bug fecal matter. I explained to her what the issue was. I had a product that was considered a wide spectrum insecticide in my compressed air sprayer which would take care of it. A wide spectrum insecticide covers many insects—the one I had included bed bugs on the label, so I knew it would do the trick. I treated the cracks and crevices along the bottom of the chair and around the perimeter of the bedroom, which had an open threshold to the living room where the chair was located.

About two weeks later, I received a call from her to please come by. She explained that although things had gotten better, she was starting to be bitten again. I then told her to have her apartment ready for my next treatment by removing her linens from the bed and vacuuming the entire apartment.

When I arrived, I saw that she had followed my instructions. She was a bit nervous and was worried that the materials I was using would cause her harm. I told her that once dried, the product would not harm her. I inspected around the bed and found evidence of bed bugs and live bed bugs in the joints of the bed frame.

This time, I attacked the cracks and crevices around the perimeter first. I had learned by doing this that I would prevent migration of the insects into adjoining areas, such as the next-door apartment. The organophosphates of the time had a relatively strong odor associated with them. Many customers of that time didn't believe the exterminator was spraying with something strong unless it had a foul odor.

I also brought with me an Actisol machine that I would use for deep penetration. This machine works like a large aerosol can. It is designed to push an insecticide deep into voids by using compressed air. I used it in the crevices on the hardwood floors. Her apartment had many small gaps and I was worried that the bed bugs would hide between the hardwood floor and the subflooring. I rarely used dust—one of the common treatments today—but in this case I used a pyrethrum dust common at the time. I asked her to vacate the apartment for several hours to allow the products to settle and dry.

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