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Fashion Bug

Claim:   New clothing coming in through China contains bedbugs; running it through a dryer cycle will kill bedbugs.

MIXTURE

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, October 2010]

Bed Bug Epidemic - true

Hi All: A bit of information that you might like to know about. We have friends here in our community and one of their sons is an entomologist (insect expert), and has been telling them that there is an epidemic of bed bugs now occurring in America. Recently I have heard on the news that several stores in NYC have had to close due to bed bug problems, as well as a complete mall in New Jersey.

He says that since much of our clothing, sheets, towels, etc. now comes from companies outside of America, (sad but true), even the most expensive stores sell foreign clothing from China, Indonesia, etc. The bed bugs are coming in on the clothing as these countries do not consider them a problem. He recommends that if you buy any new clothing, even underware and socks, sheets, towels, etc. that you bring them into the house and put them in your clothes dryer for at least 20 minutes. The heat will kill them and their eggs. DO NOT PURCHASE CLOTHES AND HANG THEM IN THE CLOSET FIRST. It does not matter what the price range is of the clothing, or if the outfit comes from the most expensive store known in the U.S. They still get shipments from these countries and the bugs can come in a box of scarves or anything else for that matter. That is the reason why so many stores, many of them clothing stores have had to shut down in NYC and other places. All you need is to bring one item into the house that has bugs or eggs and you will go to hell and back trying to get rid of them. He travels all over the country as an advisor to many of these stores, as prevention and after they have the problem.

Send this information on to those on your e-mail list so that this good prevention information gets around quickly.
 

Origins:   This helpful heads-up about bedbug infestations began landing in the snopes.com inbox in early October 2010. While it is true the U.S. is experiencing an explosion in its bedbug population, this phenomenon is not due to the critters' suddenly arriving on clothing manufactured in countries where their presence is winked at — the bedbug problem has been on the rise in the U.S. for years, with all 50 states reporting epidemic levels as far back as 2007. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has seen a 71 percent increase in bedbug infestations since 2001, mainly due to international travel. Bedbugs hitch rides on the luggage of people who travel; the little beasties get into the suitcases of those who stay in infested hotel rooms, then are spread to those travelers' homes, and from thence get to other hotel rooms when those suitcases are used yet again.

Xenophobic commentary about clothing imported from China and Indonesia notwithstanding, the email's advice about treating wearables with a lengthy session in the clothes dryer is generally valid. (The warning about new clothing appears a bit over the top, though; we've yet to happen upon credible reports of bedbugs being found in such garments.) Bedbugs will not survive a hot tumble in that appliance, provided the temperature in its interior reaches (and then doesn't go below) 113°F. (There is some dispute about the minimum temperature required to eradicate bedbugs; we've also seen it credibly listed as 120°F.) The length of time clothing needs to be treated in this fashion to fully exterminate bedbugs also varies from source to source: while 20 or 25 minutes are the figures most commonly cited as the duration necessary to kill the lurking bugs, we've also seen recommendations of as little as 5 minutes and as much as 45 minutes.

Bedbugs are the ultimate hitchhikers, quickly taking up residence in suitcases and backpacks set down in infested areas. They are almost unimaginably hardy, capable of surviving for more than a year without eating (which means a house that has sat empty for that length of time could still contain a bedbug population with the potential of driving its new homeowner mad) and able to resist extremes of temperature, from freezing to 113°'F. Despite their name, bedbugs reside everywhere in any given room, not just in its bed. While their most common hiding spots are in the cracks and crevices of mattresses and box springs, they can also hide in furniture, baseboards,
electrical outlets, or any other small space or fabric surface near humans.

The process of eradicating bedbugs that have taken up residence in one's home is a daunting one, generally involving three separate sessions of extermination, with each of those comprising a number of different methods. It's lengthy, expensive, and frustrating, and if any of the bugs are missed, the bedbugs will be back in force in short order.

The best remedy is to not bring bedbugs into your home from other sites in the first place. When staying in hotels, place your bag on a suitcase stand rather than on the floor or the bed. Bedbugs can't easily climb metal, which means your bag and its contents should be relatively safe from them provided you place your valise on a metal-legged suitcase rack. Keep the suitcase rack away from walls and any wooden furniture, thereby preventing the bugs easy access to your belongings. If your hotel room lacks this amenity, you might try leaving your bag in the bath tub. (We've heard bedbugs can't easily climb enamel.) Consider keeping everything in your suitcase during your stay (rather than unpacking its contents) and keeping your bag encased in a thick plastic bag when not in immediate use.

At home, store luggage outside the domicile (in a shed, for example) to prevent any bedbugs that got onboard despite your precautions from entering your house. Immediately wash all clothing you took on your travels, as opposed to letting them sit for a bit in the laundry basket. Be wary of acquiring used furnishings, especially beds and couches. (If you must take on such items, inspect them very carefully for signs of bedbug infestation.) Run any second-hand clothing you've bought or been given through the dryer as soon as you bring it into the house.

Barbara "debugged" Mikkelson

Additional information:
Bedbugs info Bed Bugs — Pest Note
(Health Canada)
Last updated:   3 October 2010

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Sources:

    Hernandez, Javier.   "In the War on Bedbugs, a New Attack Strategy."
    The New York Times.   28 July 2010.

    National Pest Management Association.   "Bed Bugs — Unwanted Summer Vacation Souvenirs."
    7 June 2007.

    [Cleveland] Plain Dealer.  "What to Do About Bedbugs."
    29 August 2010   (p. D5).