Bedbugs invade even cleanest homes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

“Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve said that to my children, and later my grandchildren through the years. It was something my mother said to me after she tucked me in bed, kissed me good night, and turned to walk out of the bedroom. It is a trite little phrase said with affection.

I just read an article that bedbugs have resurged in places like hotels, motels, hostels, military barracks, homes, and other places in large cities. I was horrified when I saw the headlines. The mention of the presence of bedbugs meant one thing to me—unsanitary conditions. However, that’s not true, according to a Mayo Clinic article on the Internet. It stated that all the tiny insects need is a warm host and plenty of hiding places. Even pristine homes and hotels can harbor bedbugs. So much for the false impression that I’d held about bedbugs all my life.

I read some feed-back from several miserable people who have been fighting bedbugs without success. Some of them apparently picked the pests up while traveling and brought them home with their belongings. Several said even pest control treatments hadn’t solved the problem.

I thought of the letter I found in my mother’s belongings after her death. I think she saved it because it was the only letter my daddy ever wrote to her during their 49-year marriage. Once during the early 1930s, Daddy worked away from home for several weeks. He stayed in a crowded hotel. The hotel’s guests also entertained guests—unwelcome ones, bedbugs. Yes, Daddy complained about the misery of his bedbug bites in that letter.

Several years ago, during a camping trip at Tannehill Historic State Park, my husband and I purchased a book on Alabama wildflowers. One day we decided to see how many wildflowers we could identify in the park. We walked some of the trails, stepping in and out of woodsy places, checking a leaf or a petal or both, to verify some of our finds. We spent an enjoyable May afternoon in that pursuit and turned in fairly early that night. A few minutes after we had our showers and turned off the light, my husband began tossing and turning in bed. He was itching all over. When he turned on the light, we discovered numerous little red spots dotting his body. Itching, frustrated, and miserable, he turned to me. “I think these are bedbug bites,” he declared. “Bedbugs!” I answered in disbelief.

Not only did I feel insulted, I was adamant. I had cleaned and vacuumed the travel trailer thoroughly and placed clean linens on the bed the day before we left on our trip. How could he believe that I allowed such nasty insects as bedbugs to thrive there? The next morning a closer inspection of his assortment of bites revealed they were not from bedbugs. He had suffered an attack by other almost invisible insects—chiggers.