Everyone seems to be talking about bedbugs these days. Honestly I thought they were imaginary bugs that parents teased their children about at bedtime “sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite”. Now we all know that these little buggers are real and they are rapidly becoming a big problem. But you don’t have to reach for a can of toxic chemicals to keep them away. There are a number of natural alternatives that work just as well.
First off, it’s important to note that bedbugs are not known to transmit diseases, harmful or otherwise to humans. You could have an allergic reaction to the bite but it’s likely the thought of having blood-sucking bugs in your bed is what will keep you up at night.
Bedbugs are not a new phenomena. They were eradicated in the United States and most other developed nations in the late 1940s using a toxic pesticide known as DDT. This pesticide proved to be so toxic in the environment that it was banned from use in 1972. It’s believed that bedbugs are making a comeback as they build up resistance to current day pesticides and the ease with which they can move from country to country in international luggage.
Bedbugs are wingless, nocturnal insects that are attracted to the scent of human blood and the carbon dioxide we exhale. You may never see one of these flea-like bugs but evidence of nightly insect bites or clusters of tiny dark fecal stains in mattress seams could point to a bedbug problem. Bedbugs don’t usually linger in the sheets waiting for your return. During the daylight hours they hide in dark crevices of mattress seams, behind headboards or in carpet or other cracks in the floors. During the night, they return guided by your scent.
One chemical-free solution to removing these pests from items in your home is to use hot or cold temperatures. Bedbugs cannot survive temperatures above 120F degrees. Use a steamer, a hot clothes dryer or the hot water wash cycle to kill bedbugs and their eggs on fabric or upholstered items. If you live in a colder climate or have access to a large freezer, several days of 32F degree or colder temperatures will also kill bedbugs.
You can also use all natural Diatomaceous (dī’ə-tə-mā’shəs) Earth (DE) to kill bedbugs. DE has been used for centuries as an all-natural pesticide. The flour-like substance is ground up fossilized shells that pierce the thin outer shell of insects, killing them by dehydration. Because DE can kill any kind of insect, you should not use it where it can kill beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs.
For bedbug treatment, sprinkle DE in mattress seams, behind headboards and around bedposts or frame where bedbugs may travel. After a few days clean up the powder and repeat if necessary. DE will remain effective as long as it stays dry and in powder form. Be careful not to inhale the fine powder particles as it can irritate the lining in your nose, mouth and lungs.
You can find natural DE in many organic garden centers or online. A 5-pound bag will treat roughly 2500 square feet and costs around $10. So, Do Your Part and sleep tight with natural solutions that will kill those bedbugs before they bite.
Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist, and host of DoYourPart.com where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2010 Terri Bennett Enterprises, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.