Attack Of The Bed Bugs

Series Finale (I Hope!!!)

Friends and followers of my Column have been asking if my wife and I got the “paws-up” from the bed bug dog who inspected our Manhattan apartment this week. We did. But we’d spent a full month of our lives in exile since finding one of the insidious, blood-sucking insects in our bed.

Editor’s Note: See Part One HERE

After reporting it to our building’s management that day, it took us a full week to put everything we own in plastic bags in preparation for the pest control company to treat our place, which included bombing the apartment with insecticide spray and sealing our clothing, books, CDs and other items in plastic bags with chemical strips inside. They launched their heaviest chemical sortees in our bedroom and put tape around the door when they left. It looked like a murder scene, complete with the posting of an official notice saying that the door could not be opened for two weeks, and only by authorized company staff.

Exiles in Our Own Home

My wife and I were relegated to the living room sofa during that time. Then came the inspection by the specially trained bed bug dog, who I have to say was a cute little fellow for sure, but I swear I would have strangled him with his own tail if he had found more bugs. He didn’t.

What a relief! Until we looked around at the sea of stuffed plastic bags surrounding us as if we had just woken up in a disaster area strewn with emergency-relief packages dropped by FEMA aircraft.  It took us another full week to unpack and put all our things back in place. What an ordeal! And it cost a small fortune to have all our coats and sweaters laundered and our carpets and curtains professionally steam-cleaned to make sure all remnants of bugs were gone.

The other thing people have been asking is if we’re now suffering from PTBBSD (post-traumatic bed bud stress disorder). I know that I certainly am – my wife may be handling it a bit better. For me, to paraphrase a line from the movie “Strange Days,” the issue isn’t whether I’m paranoid. It’s whether I’m paranoid enough.

My effort to educate and protect myself from these beastly bugs sent me into a panic. “Bed bugs are back!” one headline screamed. “Long since considered eradicated from major metropolitan areas in North America,” read I, who recently moved back to a major metropolitan area in North America. “The  combination of increased international travel” (uh-oh) “and the fact that pest control professionals no longer use older pesticides means that bed bugs have been able to stage a resurgence,” the article continued, and because of their “unique ability to hide and spread, new inspection and control methods must be far more thorough and extensive than with many other pests.”

Photo credit: insightpest via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Notorious Hitchhikers

According to Google, you can pick these creatures up anywhere: hotel rooms, trains, buses, subways, airplanes, from used clothes and furniture. They’re “notorious hitch-hikers,” one of the articles said. They hide in your luggage, they disappear into your pocketbooks and tote bags, they crawl onto your socks. You’re not safe anywhere – not in the hospital, not even in your office, and you can be the most sanitary person in the world. It’s not necessarily you who attracted them, but anyone whose path you may have crossed who attracted them first.

Plus, bed bugs can survive for up to a full year without food, which means you might put a bunch of your things into a storage facility, where bed bugs find them and then make their way into your home when you retrieve your stuff. Once they’ve infiltrated, your first evidence of them is likely to be their itchy bites on your shoulders, arms or legs, or small blood stains on your mattress. They can be around awhile before you see any because they’re adept at hiding in small places like baseboards, cracks in floors, under carpets, behind wallpaper, under your mattress, in bed frames and sofas or behind picture frames.

And you think rabbits multiply? Fuhgettaboutit! I read that a female bed bug lays 200 to 250 eggs in her lifetime and they hatch in six to 10 days, with the “newly emerged nymphs” born hungry for a “blood meal.”

Too much information? Tell me about it. Before long I was ready to give up many of the things I enjoy most in life: traveling, going to movies and concerts and theaters of any kind.

Defend Your Way of Life

But hey, was I gonna let these godforsaken creatures scare me into changing my way of life? Heck, no! I called the bed bug company and asked them what I could do to prevent picking up another batch of these blood-suckers. They told me to:

 [message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#FFFFFF” end_color=”#FFFFFF” border=”#fb7200″ color=”# fb7200″]

✅ Buy some rubbing alcohol and put it in a spray bottle.
✅ Buy clear, plastic, zippered clothing bags to put inside luggage.
✅ Spray the luggage inside and out with the rubbing alcohol before and after every trip.
✅ During the trip, keep all clothes inside the clear, plastic bags in the luggage and don’t leave them out in the hotel closet or room.
✅ Inspect very carefully wherever I sleep or sit outside the home – hotel beds, movie theaters, bus, train and subway seats – everywhere.[/message]

[su_spacer]So that’s what I plan to do. After what my wife and I have just been through, I’m never gonna let my guard down. If you live in a major metropolitan area in North America, or plan to visit one, neither should you. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. (Except maybe one or two.)

Martin D. Hirsch
Martin D. Hirsch
Martin Hirsch started building his own communications consulting practice in 2017 after a career spanning almost 35 years with one of the world’s leading international healthcare groups. He’s led internal and external corporate communications, brand and reputation management, and crisis and issue management. Working in both the United States and Europe, he has advised multiple CEOs and collaborated with colleagues all over the world. Martin’s strengths include executive consulting, strategic message development, content marketing, storytelling, communications training, public speaking, mentoring talent, and inspiring organizations to advance beyond their limitations.Lately he’s been helping clients by writing keynote speeches for top executives, developing strategies for pitching new business and explaining complex issues, ranging from how to apply new digital health tools in the pharmaceuticals industry to making sense of the rapid and complex changes challenging employees to maintain their equilibrium at major corporations. Martin also works as a faculty adviser at the New York University School of Professional Studies, helping graduate students with their Capstone Papers. His speaking engagements have included presentations at the IABC World Conference, the European Association of Communications Directors Summit, the Corporate Communications International Leaders Forum, the European Commission Communications Directorate and the Rotterdam School of Business Reputation Forum Netherlands. More recently, he was a panelist at the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association conference on expat issues held at Pfizer headquarters in New York. Martin’s writing, including essays, letters and poems, has appeared in newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Europe. You can read his blog on MUSE-WORTHY, here on BIZCATALYST 360°. He received the American Association of Journalists and Authors 2018 Writing Award for Best Personal Story Blog.
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