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Bed Bugs Are Biting In SD But Are They Dangerous?

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Video published November 19, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: The old saying "sleep tight - don't let the bed bugs bite" isn't a figure of speech anymore. Bed bugs are crawling over mattresses, in crevasses and carpets across California and the country! Heading into the busiest travel week of the year, bed bugs are reportedly hitchhiking with airplane travelers. Why is San Diego playing reluctant host to this persistent pest and what can we do about it?

The old saying "sleep tight - don't let the bed bugs bite" isn't a figure of speech anymore. Bed bugs are crawling over mattresses, in crevasses and carpets across California and the country! And, heading into the busiest travel week of the year, bed bugs are reportedly hitchhiking with airplane travelers. Why is San Diego playing reluctant host to this persistent pest and what can we do about it?

Guest

Michael Wall, Ph.D., curator of entomology at the San Diego Natural History Museum

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

THE OLD SAYING SLEEPING TIGHT DON'T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE ISN'T A FIGURE OF SPEECH ANYMORE. BEDBUGS ARE CRAWLING OVER MATTRESSES AND CREVICES ACROSS CALIFORNIA AND THE COUNTRY. HEADED INTO THE BUSIEST TRAVEL WEEK OF THE YEAR BEDBUGS ARE HITCHHIKING WITH AIRPLANE TRAVELERS. WHY IS SAN DIEGO PLAYING RELUCTANT HOST TO THE PEST AND WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT? JOINING ME IS MICHAEL WALL FROM THE SAN DIEGO NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM. WE SHOULD START OUT WITH HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE BEDBUG?

THERE ARE A COUPLE DIFFERENT WAYS. ONE YOU COULD HAVE BITES. BITES LOOK LIKE A MOSQUITO BITE. IT IS A SMALL WELT HALF AN INCH IN SIZE. UNFORTUNATELY A LOT OF PEOPLE GET BIT AND HAVE NO REACTION. THEY GUESSTIMATE IT IS AROUND 25 TO 50% OF PEOPLE HAVE NO REACTION TO A BEDBUG BITE AT ALL. YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW THAT YOU HAVE BEDBUGS. YOU COULD BE BEING BITTEN AND HAVE NO IDEA.

WHAT DO YOU WORRY IF YOU HAVE BEDBUGS AND YOU DON'T SHOW SIGN OF BEING BITTEN?

I WOULD NOT WORRY ABOUT IT PERSONALLY. ONCE YOU SEE THEM THEN IT GETS CREEPY.

A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL BE TRAVELING NEXT WEEK. THEY ARE WORRIED. SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR LUGGAGE FROM THAT BEDBUGGING THAT LIKES TO TRAVEL WITH YOU?

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS THEY GIVE PEOPLE IS WHEN YOU ARE TRAVELING TO TAKE PLASTIC BAGS WITH YOU WHEN YOU TRAVEL. BAG YOUR CLOTHES UP ONCE YOU GET TO A HOTEL ROOM OR SOMEWHERE WHERE THERE MIGHT BE BEDBUGS. YOU'LL WANT TO BAG YOUR ACTUAL LUGGAGE. MAIN THING IS TO AVOID GIVING THEM ACCESS TO YOUR CLOTHES OR LUGGAGE. OTHERWISE THEY ARE INSEED USE CREATURE AND HARD TO AVOID ONCE THEY ARE IMPLANTED.

DO THEY SPREAD DISEASE? DO WE HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THAT?

NO. THERE HAS BEEN A FAIR CHUNK OF STUDY DONE ON THAT. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT THEY SPREAD ANY TYPE OF DISEASE UNLIKE MOSQUITOES.

IT IS SOUNDING AS THOUGH WE ARE MORE WORRIED THAN BENEED TO BE. IF YOU DON'T GET BITTEN OR SHOW SIGNS OF A BITE AND YOU DON'T SEE THEM. THEY DON'T SPREAD IT IS. WHY ARE WE SO CONCERNED?

BECAUSE IT FEELS LIKE AN INVASION OF OUR PRIVACY. THEY ARE BEDBUGS. THEY ARE IN OUR BED. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST PRIVATE SANCTUARIES IN OUR LIVES-KIND OF THING. TO HAVE SOMETHING CALLING IN AND TAKING YOUR BLOOD, I CAN UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE FIND THAT CREEPY. THERE IS PROBABLY NOT A LOT TO WORRY ABOUT.

ARE THERE ANY CONDITIONS WHICH THEY FIND PARTICULARLY ATTRACTIVE?

THE WARMER IT IS THE BETTER. THEIR LIFE CYCLE GOES FASTER WHEN IT IS WARM. THEY CAN REPRODUCE MORE QUAKILY AND THAT SORT OF STUFF. OTHER THAN THAT THEY LIKE IT WARM. THEY LOOK IT DARK. THEY LIKE LITTLE CREEKS AND CREVICES TO CREEP INTO.

THEY HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME. WHY ARE THEY RESURFACING NOW?

THERE IS SUGGESTION WHEN DDT IN THE 70s WAS OUTLAWED THAT IT TAKE AN WHILE FOR THE POPULATIONS TO RECOVER. THEIR POPULATIONS WERE DECREASED SO MUCH WITH OUTLAWING OF DDT THE CHEMICAL THAT WE USE THESE DAYS, ALTHOUGH EFFECTIVE, BUT NOT AS EFFECTIVE.

THAT'S THE ONLY ANSWER ISN'T IT? BRINGING IN THE PROFESSIONAL EXTERMINATOR?

YOU WANT TO BRING IN A PROFESSIONAL EXTERMINATOR. DO RESEARCH ON YOUR OWN. MAKE SURE YOU REALLY QUIZ YOUR EXTERMINATOR ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE DEALING WITH BEDBUGS. IT IS A RECENT THING. YOU MIGHT ASK FOR REFERENCES AND SEE WHAT SORT OF EXPERIENCE THEY HAVE BEFORE YOU HIRE THEM.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU.

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