New York Shitty Day Ender: Bedbug Blues

This item comes from a Brooklynite who, for reasons you can understand would like to remain anonymous. He/she writes:

Hi Miss Heather,

We’re having a problem: we were exposed to bed bugs on a recent trip and despite doing everything in our power to avoid bringing them home, we’re concerned that we did nonetheless.

Since then I’ve been scratching non-existent welts and searching the web for information on how to eradicate them in case we do discover them.  Problem is: we have pets.  Do you know of anyone who successfully used an extermination service that was safe for animals?  Any information would be enormously appreciated.


Psychosomatically itchy

As it would happen I do know someone who has pets and has successfully fought the battle against these vermin from hell. We’ll call her J. I asked her for her take. Here it is:

Dear PI

If you did everything in your power to not bring the bugs home, then you can relax.  From personal experience and from talking to others in these situations, it is really common to get itchy due to anxiety.  Some of us even get anxiety-induced hives and that makes us even more anxious because it brings up the question—OMG, what if they’re bites?  The best thing you can do right now is relax.

However, to answer the question—my animals were FINE.  These are the guidelines I would recommend:

  • Natural remedies don’t’ work.  Don’t even bother researching neem or lavender.  If there were a natural remedy that really worked, it would be easy to get and well advertised.
  • Steaming is a lot of work and doesn’t get bugs that hide in the walls, so steaming the mattress once a week will help but it won’t take care of the whole problem.  If you get bugs, you WILL need to use chemicals.
  • Don’t hire a pco who wants to spray your entire floor boards.  It doesn’t work anyway, and you and your pets will be exposed to unnecessary chemicals.
  • Phantom is the chemical of choice these days.  The PCO should spray it around the baseboards and maybe on the walls where they meet the ceiling.
  • Your animals will need to be boarded during the treatment for usually about 5 hours, but ask your PCO what they think.
  • I was instructed to mop up any excess before bringing the animals back in.
  • My cat, upon returning from the catsitter’s, immediately ran and hid—right on top of a poison-treated area.  For hours.  And he was fine.  No illness whatsoever.  Not even any skin or eye irritation.
  • I used UMG Pest Control and they were very good.  I didn’t let them spray my mattress.  I steamed it myself once a week and the chemicals did the rest.
  • Go to for more information about preparation, washing, bagging, etc.

I also, as my friend suggested, asked my buddy “nobugs” from Bedbugger for her take. Here it is:

Hi Heather,

Licensed pest control firms will know how to treat safely with pets in the home.  We have heard cases where people were asked to remove the pet for several hours or even a day during treatment.  Birds are especially sensitive.  But people with pets get traditional pest control all the time.  It’s important to discuss the treatment with the pest firm, and ask what is done differently due to the presence of pets, or whether they need to be out for a period of time.

If you get an idiot treating your home, there is some danger.  One woman lost her dear parakeets.  Cats are very sensitive to pyrethrins.

If someone is particularly worried about pesticides, some firms use a combination of steam and dusts.

A really effective and chemical-free treatment (and one of the only one-shot options) is thermal treatment.  It can be costly but in the long run can work out the same as a prolonged battle with traditional sprays.  Pets and humans have to leave for less than a day only because the temps go up to 140 F.

One caveat: in an apartment or other multi-unit building, getting treatment without telling the landlord/building manager may backfire if the pests have spread to others in the building.

Hope this helps!

I want to thank my buddy J and Nobugs for taking the time to tender advice to PI. If you have advice to share please do so via comments or send them to me via email at: missheather (at) thatgreenpointblog (dot) com. Your identity will remain anonymous if you so desire. Thanks!

And if you’re reading this, PI, it is my sincerest hope you do not have to use the information contained in this post.

Miss Heather


2 Comments on New York Shitty Day Ender: Bedbug Blues

  1. Maximus on Fri, 28th May 2010 10:43 am
  2. Neem oil TOTALLY works. I had a treatment on the baseboards in my apartment with regular chemicals (the cat came back in after about 4 hours and he was just fine, no irritation at all). But on my mattress and furniture I used Neem oil and I got rid of the bugs in one go. I didn’t have to toss my mattress, though I did get one of those mattress covers. And I’ve been bug-free for 2 years.
    I think the only reason that Neem oil not around everywhere is because Americans are fond of over-kill and quick results, and we are a bunch of capitalists with a pretty powerful chemicals industry.
    You can find Neem oil at your local gardening store, especially the fancy ones. It smells sort of shitty, but it’s completely safe to use on your mattress (and even on your body). It’s a natural insect repellent. I know people who make their own bug-spray with it by mixing it with essential oils. It will also keep spiders and ants away from you apartment and you can use it on household plants that get aphids.

  3. nobugs on Tue, 6th Jul 2010 11:54 pm
  4. Hi Miss Heather,

    Thanks for trying to spread good information about bed bugs! Greenpoint definitely has bed bug troubles.

    I am sorry I did not see the above comment sooner. I hope the following will help someone when they come across it.

    I first read that neem was not recommended for treating bed bugs on a site that markets neem to Americans ( I have no connection with that site, I am not recommending that site. I am just giving you a source for this statement. (If it is a good idea to treat bed bugs with neem, you think they’d be pushing this!)

    My understanding from this and several other sources is that neem has repellent qualities.

    That may seem great — “Hey! Let me just repel these bed bugs!” We all use repellents when camping and hiking, to keep ticks and mosquitos away.

    But you’re not camping. You’re in a building. Repelling bed bugs does not make them crawl under the door and walk away from your life forever. It may make them spread deeper into your home, making them harder to treat.

    I am not an expert on neem. However, I think you should be very cautious given the claims of its repellent effects. Hopefully someone will test this soon so we have better information on what neem does to the bed bug population in an apartment or house.

    And though I think it was not referenced above, for anyone reading this, whatever you do, do not use bug bombs or foggers against bed bugs. They will make problems worse and will not solve them!

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