UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Trouble with Bed Bugs

These fliers were posted all around Allston warning movers not to touch or take any objects from the street

Recently, Mayor Thomas Menino completed an inspection tour through Allston and the apartments that college students would be occupying during the fall semester. The inspection revealed some major issues, including problems with bed bugs. In response to this, Menino has proposed some changes to the annual inspection process for Boston landlords early in September.

Menino’s proposal would require landlords to have annual inspections of their apartment complexes and need to pay an additional $15 annual fee. However, landlords whose apartments consistently passed these inspections would be able to waive both the fee and the inspection. On the other hand, landlords who are deemed to be “repeat offenders” would have their names posted online along with the deficiencies that were found in their apartment buildings.

A student, Amy, who did not wish her last name to be used, spoke of her problem with bed bugs. “I couldn’t sleep,” she said, “thinking about them [bed bugs] biting me.”

The problem started with an adjacent apartment in her apartment complex. She needed to move shortly after discovering this problem.

Bed bugs can carry diseases. They are known as true human parasites. Some people may not even notice when bed bugs are feeding on them. However, people who have been bitten by bed bugs can develop rashes ranging from 1/8 inch to one or more inches in diameter. Rarely, some people can have allergic reactions to bed bug bites.

Bed bugs have become more common in the last few years. They are tiny, measuring approximately 3/16” in circumference. Bed bugs are known to nest in the crevices of beds and in drawers. They can live on wood, paper or plastic. They are also known as “hitchhiking” insects, meaning you should never bring furniture or books into your home that have been left outside.

According to the Boston Bedbug Authority’s web site (http:/ecologicentomology.com), bed bugs are attracted by heat and sweat. They begin in a nymph state during which they are white in color. As they feed, they take on a reddish color from the blood they have ingested. As adults they also take on a reddish brown color.

Bed bugs cannot fly, but they do have wings. Much like ticks, their bodies can swell to accommodate a large amount of blood. A few of these insects can eventually create a large population of hundreds or thousands in a very short time; the earlier a problem is noticed, the easier it will be to control.

There are many methods which can be used to kill bed bugs. The most effective of these is to have an exterminator spray all surfaces with an insecticide. The problem with this is that it is labor intensive. Also, if your apartment has any clutter, the bed bugs can possibly hide from the chemicals. It should be noted that commercial “bug bombs” have not been shown to be effective. Bed bugs are comfortable at about the same temperature range as humans are. For this reason steam is another reasonably effective extermination method.

Dogs can be trained to locate bed bugs, but these animals need to be specially trained and some exterminators have lied about their dogs being properly trained. If you suspect you have an issue with bed bugs, you can use white or light colored sheets to identify a potential problem with these annoying bugs. By watching for the tell-tale signs (dried blood and discarded insect bodies) you can determine if you have a bed bug problem.

Hopefully, Mayor Menino’s new proposal will result in cleaner and safer apartments for Boston students. However, prevention is the best cure. By keeping your place relatively clean and not taking in couches or other furniture from the curb, you can guarantee a happy and healthy semester in your apartment.