About a year ago I wrote a very controversial blog post about bedbugs and global warming. I admit I was "brainstorming" rather than basing my thoughts on real research. Well, I finally got to meet a REAL scientist who studies bedbugs (he's an entomologist), and has researched them extensively. My theory was that CO2 in the atmosphere from global warming might be leading to the increase in bedbugs (bedbugs ARE attracted to CO2). I was wrong.
Yes. I was wrong.
Here is what has lead to the increase in bedbugs over the past few years: excessive use of pesticides to attempt to eradicate them! It turns out that bedbugs, like most insects, are very resilient to chemicals, and adapt quickly to become stronger and more resistant. Ongoing extensive study by Changlu Wang, PhD, extension specialist in the department of entomology at Rutgers University, has shown that employing nontoxic means of eradicating bedbugs are even more effective over the long haul than spreading toxic chemicals.
So here is my list of top 10 nontoxic ways to control bedbugs, based on Wang's talk at the Beyond Pesticides conference in Denver, Colorado:
1: Physically remove them by vacuuming and cleaning them up manually. Even though I do yoga, I do approve of killing bugs. Stomping is acceptable.
2: REMOVE CLUTTER. Bedbugs love to snuggle in piles of clothes, newspapers, and junk. Dr. Wang showed pictures of places where it was almost impossible to get rid of the bedbugs, and it had a lot to do with piles of junk and clothes and crap lying around. The more you remove clutter, the easier it is to keep bedbugs out.
3: Launder your bedding WEEKLY. And if have a bedbug problem, make sure that you use heat in the dryer. Bedbugs hate heat.
4: Encase your pillows and mattresses. They're easier to remove and clean on a regular basis.
5: Clean with a hot steamer. Again, bedbugs hate heat. Make sure to get around the baseboards and cracks (see number 2).
6: Put climb-up interceptors under the legs of furniture. One suggestion is to put the legs of your beds into cans of soapy water, but if that won't fly at your house, you can try applying petroleum jelly or Tanglefoot instead.
7: Open your windows! Since bedbugs love CO2, which by the way comes out of your mouth when you breathe as you sleep (yes, with your mouth open and drool coming out), opening a window disperses the CO2 in the room and makes it a much more unappealing environment for bedbugs to linger in.
8: Use a fan. Same concept as number 7. If the bugs can't find your pockets of CO2 because there is too much fresh air and wind, they will go to your neighbor's house instead.
9: Make a dry ice trap with a dog dish. According to Wang, this really works! Put dry ice in a dog dish, and cover the outside of the dish with something the bugs can climb, such as a cloth or some paper. They will climb in for the CO2 and then won't be able to get out.
10: Try diatomaceous earth. A naturally occurring pest-fighter that comes from dead algae skeletons or something like that, you can get it online and should use it carefully, but it does work. I remember my grandfather using it, and it's still considered organic. Thanks to the stuff's microscopically sharp edges, it's the equivalent of putting tacks on the deck of a boat to deter pirates.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.