Protecting Fabric and Leather Sofas From Bed Bugs
Back in 2006, a resident of Chicago sued a Catskills hotel $20 million because of the bed bug bites she received during her three day stay. While the 500 or so itchy, burning bites the women endured clearly represented an extreme example of exposure, the event did a lot to put a nation on alert against these tiny, blood-sucking insects.
Bed bugs, the tiny, flat parasites from the Cimicidae family of insects are often reddish-brown, a side-effect of their diet. They feed exclusively on the blood of homeothermic (i.e. warm-blooded) animals, including humans.
Female bed bugs lay their eggs in hidden places, producing as many as 500 in their lifetimes. The largest only get to about a fourth of an inch long, but it takes them less than a month to fully develop.
In the early 1940s, bed bugs were mostly eradicated in the developed world. However, the mid-90s brought a resurgence of the parasite, a rebirth accredited to increased travel to impoverished nations, as well as more and more people taking pre-owned beds, mattresses, and sectional sofas from the street.
The insects also travel relatively fast and easily through pipes and boards. Their preferred nesting place is the fabric of furniture, such as beds, couches, sofa sleepers, chaise lounges, and futons. Additionally, the bugs have been known to nest in clutter found around a sleeping area. Their preferred habitat seems to center more on remaining close to their meal supply.
It can be hard to detect bed bugs, due to their nocturnal nature and small stature. Often, detection is caused due to the things the insects leave behind, such as fecal spots, blood smears, etc.
Additionally, patterns of bug bites in a row or in a cluster usually signal an infestation. However, just because you found some itchy bumps on your skin doesn’t automatically mean you have bed bugs. A bed bug bite is often a raised red freckle-like bump, typically extraordinarily itchy, making it almost indistinguishable to a mosquito bite. However, a bed bug bite will last a much longer period of time.
While not the most dangerous parasite to be in bed with, bed bugs do present considerable discomfort, and in some rare situations, cause nausea and sickness through allergic reactions. However, some people may not even show signs of being bitten, just another reason why the bugs can be so hard to detect.
One of the major fears when dealing with blood-sucking parasites is the fear of disease being passed to the host. Considering as many as 30 different kinds of infectious agents can live inside each insect, it would seem a realistic assumption that this parasite is no different. Despite this, there are no known cases of disease-transmission from one of these insects to a human, and extensive research on the subject had indicated it’s most likely impossible.
So the question, as it is with any infectious parasite, is how to get rid of it? DDT was the most commonly used pesticide against bed bugs in the ’40s and ’50s, but it was banned in 1972 for the harm it caused to people. Most modern versions of the bugs have developed a strong resistance to normal pesticides. High concentrations of carbon dioxide will do the trick, though this involves completely controlling the atmosphere of a living space.
A cheaper, easier solution is to wrap a mattress or sectional sofa suspected of being infected in plastic sheeting. As long as the plastic is impermeable and bite-proof, the infected furniture will eventually become free of the insects.
Additionally, there are a series of traps using heat, carbon dioxide, and even duct tape that can be used to eliminate as well as prevent a bed bug infestation.