Uninvited Guests

By Lina Younes

Many a night I’ve put my children to bed while saying the rhyme “Night-night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” But it wasn’t until recently that I actually saw these little pests when I accompanied a Spanish language TV crew to a residence in Baltimore MD which had a bed bug infestation. The crew was going to interview the owner of the house who had been waging a war against these bugs for over a year. My role was to give tips in Spanish on how to resolve the problem in a manner that would not be harmful to the environment nor human health.

In preparing for the interview, I learned of this growing problem and the difficulties in addressing it properly. These pests cause itchy bites to people and pets alike. While extremely annoying, they are not known for transmitting or spreading disease. EPA recommends using a comprehensive approach to address bed bug infestations Integrated pest management combined with the use of pesticides is a must! However, beware of misleading marketing ploys making false claims which will not solve the problem. If you are to use pesticides, read the label first to make sure the product is identified for use on bed bugs. If these pests are not listed on the label, the product might not effectively treat the infestation. Make sure you apply the appropriate pesticide correctly and that you remove children AND pets from the areas where the pesticides are being applied.

Another thing that I learned is that these pests like to travel! They latch on to suitcases, hence the growing problem plaguing dorms and even the fanciest hotels. You can check the mattress for signs of bed bugs. See some additional tips.

I know when I read about these pests, I start itching all over. I hope that I have at least piqued your curiosity to learn more about the problem. There are cyber tools available on the Internet which will provide information on bed bug reports before booking a hotel room or renting an apartment—a useful tool to avoid bringing these uninvited guests home.

As always, we would like to hear about your experiences dealing with these unwanted critters.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.