SPP: So we’ll go ahead and get started. My first question to you is just in general what are bed bugs?
Jeff: I know a lot of people have heard of them but aren’t very versed in exactly what they are and the problems that they can cause. Basically bed bugs are these little insects that in technical terms it’s called Cimex Lectularius, they’ve been around since cavemen. The pharaohs of Egypt spoke about them, Greek plays had them, inside our staff had them in some of their plays , since the beginning of time essentially, right up through the White House has always had a bed bug problems and former Presidents.
And essentially what they do is these little bugs feed on blood and they feed on your body. Most people in our generation unless you’re in your 70s never dealt with bed bugs they thought it was some kind of mythological pest that you just had some nursery rhyme it just was something that you say to your kids before you go to sleep, but for 1940s and prior to you would spray your mattress every night with kerosene hoping that you wouldn’t get bed bugs and you’d give this little blessing to your child, sleep tight let’s hope the bed bugs don’t bite.
So essentially every since in the late 1990s this problem has become a serious problem to epidemic proportions where it’s now a worldwide issue throughout the country. US every major city, thousands and thousands of towns and villages, and even rural areas are battling a bed bug epidemic and many cities that haven’t had any report instances as recently as two or three years ago are now on the top of the list. Cities like Philadelphia and Tucson and Miami, these are cities that are getting plagued by bed bugs who never had any reported instances and people are getting taken by surprise.
SPP: What caused this recent rise in the epidemic of bed bugs?
Jeff: Essentially a product called DDT which is a medicine in the 1940s was the “magical safe pesticide”, which you could spray on people’s bodies. Now this pesticide was used to eradicate many pests, including bed bugs, and it pretty much disseminated bed bugs throughout the US. I mean it disseminated to the point where by the 1950s there were no more bed bugs in this country. But by the ’60s they found out that DDT wasn’t so safe and it really stopped working anyway, so they pulled it from the market.
What happened was as people, as US citizens continued to travel abroad because of the inexpensive nature of flying to all kinds of exotic countries these countries had never really gotten rid of their bed bug problem. So essentially all our travelers had brought the bed bugs back into our country and through many European cities and countries who had no problems. This problem festered for many years without being detected properly because most people, most extermination companies didn’t know anything about bed bugs. We discovered them in 1996 and we saw this growing, and we thought this was going to become a major problem. And most of my industry thought that we were smoking something because bed bugs had not been an issue in 50 years.
So during this process we were telling people that they had bed bugs they were denying it, because all of the myths that are associated with bed bugs. The average person thought that bed bugs were associated with being dirty, being from a foreign country, being poor, being uneducated, these are all myths and people were doing all the wrong things. If they did think they had bed bugs they’d throw out their bed or they’d go to a hardware store and pick up some spray that had a big picture of bed bug and they’d spray their house.
Most of these things would make the problem worse. You take in a bed bug problem from one room to five rooms or throughout the house or throughout the apartment building because of all the myths that people knew or thought they knew about bed bugs. The whole purpose of the book that I wrote “The Bed Bug Survival Guide” I wrote as a public service and really to help people. All the proceeds and all the advances that we got from the book are going to charity Kids for Cancer, Kids with Orphans. So I really wanted people to understand about bed bugs because at the end of the day there’s no magic bullet between bed bugs. What’s going to solve this problem or going to help the problem and pull this epidemic back from its ways is through education.
SPP: Jeff I guess I wanted you to reiterate what you said. That’s really awesome. I didn’t know the proceeds of your book were going to charity and that’s really fantastic. What kind of made you decide to go that route?
Jeff: A lot of what I do every day, a big part of my life is involved in charities. I believe that there are a lot of purposes in our lives but the last 15 years I’ve seen so much suffering regarding the bed bugs. They don’t spread disease but they do cause a tremendous amount of suffering, mental suffering, people who don’t sleep at nights their lives are turned upside down for months at a time. They spend thousands of dollars, many people spend money they really can’t afford, and people can date, people have kids kind of play dates, and kids who don’t have their toys for months on end because they had bed bugs, and it disrupts their lives to an incredible degree where 50% of my day was psychology. Just easing, trying to make people feel better, and letting them know and reassuring them that we’re going to get rid of it, which we always do.
They asked me to write this book and I wrote it. I said I don’t want to exploit people by selling a book and thinking I’m going to profit from it. I want people to have it so I wanted to show my attentions, that I’m not only donating the whole proceeds on thousands of books to sell, but I’m also matching it. Because I really want to encourage people to give it to their friends and loved ones, because it’s a win-win for everyone. You go in and help yourself, you’re going to reduce the chance of getting bed bugs at 75%, and you’re going to help a lot of kids. These are charities that are well-known with Four Star
Charity Navigator ratings. They’ve been around for 20 years, and everybody benefits here. I feel good that I did something to help a lot of people ease their suffering and it helped a lot of children who definitely need the most amounts of help.
SPP: That is definitely awesome. We urge our listeners to pick up your book and also help donate anything that they can to help out these people. That’s fantastic Jeff, thank you. You mentioned that a lot of more prevalent cites, such as Philadelphia, Tucson, and Miami, all these places are starting to have problems with bed bugs. Do you find that there’s an area of the country that they’re more prevalent or do you find that there’s different places, such as hotels or just places where there’s shared beds?
Jeff: You know that’s a great question. The truth is they’re every. You want a Top 10 List of Cities I can certainly give you that. I mean New York and Ohio is probably the Number 1 top states with the worst problems, but they’re cities LA and Dallas and Minnesota these cities are coming on very strong. It’s not a contest you really want to win but it’s a nature of the beast. In terms of percentages they’re growing the fastest because they’re not equipped to deal with it.
These governments are not even aware of it. They think, well we can’t have a problem we’re in the Midwest. But in terms of actual places one of the big myths is that bed bugs only go to 1 Star hotel which is totally not true, I mean the incidents of bed bugs in 5 Star hotels is just as great if not greater than 1 Star hotel. Because 5 Star hotels get a lot more international travel and these people have come in contact with millions of other people’s bags and stuff from countries around the world and they’re constantly battling this problem.
5 Star hotels it’s a struggle and it doesn’t matter how much you spend for the suit these are just fancier bed bugs than the 1 Star hotel, but essentially they’re everyone. They’re in the planes. Just a couple of weeks ago a big, I think it was a big Yahoo executive flew on British Airways, she got bit to pieces. Then they denied it and then she created a Web site within 24 hours blasting them and then they admitted to it. Then they took these two planes out of service for about 48 hours which cost them a fortune.
I mean but we know they’re on planes and hotels and busses and subways. They’re in medical clinics or hospitals maternity wards, courtrooms, movie theatres, Broadway shows. I mean there’s no place I can’t think of one place that we have not discovered that bed bugs have been found in this country. The list goes on and on. Wherever people go the bed bugs are there right by them.
SPP: I didn’t even think about all those other places I just associated it with beds. So that’s a scary thought. I was trying to get a sense of, because I’ve never seen them or heard of them, or I don’t think I’ve been affected by them, but is the most problematic thing about them is it painful when you get bit. Does it wake you up when you’re sleeping, you have numeral bites. How does that work?
Jeff: Well it’s not necessarily painful. It’s very annoying that you can, and I say can, when they bite you you’re not going to know that. They inject an anesthetic in you so you’re not going to know you got bit until three to 12 hours later typically for most people. Now if you manifest the bits in some ways you’re lucky because that means you’ll have some idea that you have bed bugs. Unfortunately many people, especially men, 90% of men don’t manifest the bites when they get bit. So what happens is they can have this problem for a long period of time undetected and not realize they have a bed bug problem until they either start to date or someone comes over and then they realize they have this problem.
Very often families, women and kids live in a family, and nobody gets any bites and it’s because they have a pet. They have a bunny or a cat or dog and these pets are taking the brunt of the bite being from the bed bugs. Because the bed bugs are not that particular they just want a blood meal. You’re not going to see a cat or a dog scratch, there isn’t going to be any marks on their body. I mean all these things are what’s making this problem go on because people assume well if I had bed bugs I’d probably see it or I’ll get bites. It’s not true.
A lot of the things online there’s so much information, which is just not correct which is making people go into the wrong direction. Even the rules that are correct things I would agree with, there’s so many exceptions to the rules, because unfortunately the bed bugs don’t read the same blogs that the people do. They don’t know that bed bugs don’t have to bite three in a row, or they don’t have to necessarily manifest the bites. The “Bed Bug Survival Guide” tell you all the exceptions to the rules the blogs aren’t telling you and trying to educate people to get that early detection.
It’s just like healthcare we take care of our bodies, we try to do preventive things and if we thing something’s wrong we go to the doctor, diagnose it early and minimize a lot of pain and suffering that we need in order to eradicate it. If we get to something too late then it’s much more invasive. So the idea is try to be more on top of it by identifying some of the signs, what to look for, knowing how to travel properly. If your kids have been exposed, the book deals with all kinds of different scenarios. Why single people are more susceptible to bed bugs than married people. Why elderly tend to get bed bugs at a significantly higher rate than younger people, all kinds of different scenarios that people need to just be aware of. It’s raising people’s consciousness which is going to help them ease their suffering.
Now you ask me is it painful? It’s not painful but if you haven’t slept a good night in three or four weeks and you just are waking up every 20 minutes trying to look for a bed bug or thinking you got bit, it takes a toll on you. We need sleep. Three or four weeks without sleep it’s not going to make you the most happy camper at work or with your loved ones, it makes you irritable, it brings on other sicknesses because you’re just not getting rejuvenated each night. So it takes a physical toll on you after awhile when you just can’t get a good night sleep knowing that these creatures potentially sucking your blood while you’re at rest.
SPP: If I’m a single male and I fall into that 90% category of males that don’t show the signs of being bit, what are some of the signs that I can look for to know bed bugs might be around, just in case I do start dating somebody and want them to stay around longer than a week of realizing that my house is infested with bed bugs?
Jeff: Well it’s a good question I mean it’s a good chance that your new partner may manifest the bites. I recommend to everybody in the country that they case their mattress and box springs with bed bug certified mattress covers. There’s many, many sold in retail stores which I don’t recommend, they’re not of quality. But by casing the mattress and box spring you will prevent a problem from going undetected for a long period of time, because when you case it with this white type of sheet you will more likely see some of the signs that bed bugs leave while they’re moving on and off your body. That could be little blood stains, little pepper stains on these encasements. If you see them you need to make sure you take the right course of action.
The course of action varies and the book kind of discusses how to discover if you have bed bugs. There’s ways of utilizing canine services these dogs are especially trained to detect the smell of bed bugs through their noses and you have to know how to choose the right company. You want to make sure that the canine company is independent from an exterminator company so there’s no built-in conflict of interest. You want to make sure you choose the right extermination company, but the canines are really your best bet in knowing if you have them or don’t have them. Because if you’re one of those guys in the 90% category then probably a canine is a good thing to use periodically or if you think you’ve been exposed you think you may have them.
SPP: I was wondering just in your years of experience what is the worst scenario of bed bugs you’ve ever seen? Was it in a house or business, kind of what did it look like when you found it and eradicated it?
Jeff: Well I mean one time we were in an adjacent building in New York and it was a very difficult case. I could not figure out why they still had this problem, where they were coming from. I knocked on this guy’s door and wanted to ask him if he was having any problems. He was an older guy. He comes to the door in a baseball cap. The bed bug crawls across the top of his cap. It was like on Candid Camera. I asked him some questions and a minute later another one crosses his cap. I thought for sure this was like a setup, I was on Candid Camera.
I asked to look inside of his baseball cap and they were crawling all over inside of his hat. I knew without going any further that his apartment had to have been loaded. And low and behold you step inside and the walls were moving. I mean we were just vacuuming up bed bugs for two weeks straight. A team of guys just vacuuming up bed begs filling up vacuum bags before we even had a chance to do a traditional treatment. Because normally you don’t even see the bed bugs, bed bugs only come out every seven to fourteen days for three to five minutes at a time. Every crack was so saturated with bed bugs and any given crack could hold 300 to 400 bed bugs, and an apartment like this with thousands of cracks. It was saturated. We had bags and bags full of vacuum. I mean we’ve had many cases like this but this is what we’re talking about walls are moving.
Now this is not a typical case. This is just a person who was disconnected, it didn’t bother him. I mean he obviously didn’t have anybody visit him or anybody that could tell him he had a serious problem. This is what I call the Pigpen Syndrome where you have guys like this who go out into society, they work with you and they eat at the same diners and restaurants, you met him on a street you’d think there’s nothing peculiar about him, and they’re going to the movies with you and they’re going to your diners, they’re going to your workplace, your hospitals, your dentist offices.
And wherever they go, like pigpen with that cloud of dirt, they’re dropping bed bugs wherever they go. They are depositing them wherever they travel, if you shake their hand, if you brush up against them in the subway, on a bus or on an airline. And this guy traveled and he did things. He was literally a vector of bed bugs wherever he travelled. There is hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of people, like this in every major city. This is why you have to protect yourself. It’s not about the people who relatively aware of it.
There are people like this who just are depositing bed bugs in all the places that you like to go. You can’t avoid it. This guy went to a gym, this guy went to Broadway shows, but it’s an issue. This is why you have to try to protect yourself and avoid these pests whenever you have the opportunity to.
SPP: The picture that you’ve painted with having the walls moving due to bed bugs I mean just makes me squirm and feel queasy. So I have to ask you, how did you get involved in studying bed bugs?
Jeff: Eventually we got called into an account in 1996 and they were complaining about things biting them. It didn’t make sense it was December time and there were no biting insects around at that time in New York City. Eventually we found this bug I didn’t know what it was, we got it identified and then [18:27] said “It’s a bed bug. Where did you get?” Nobody was able to help me because bed bugs had not been on the radar for 50 years. We had to learn how to get rid of this pest on our own because of the available techniques were illegal. The old timers didn’t have any advice for me. We had to figure out how to get rid of bed bugs on our own and we started to study it. I’m from somewhat of an academic background and as I was studying I was learning these unbelievable things about how difficult it was to get rid of this pest, so for a good five or six years we started getting calls from around the city because we got a reputation that we had some knowledge about this problem.
Most companies didn’t bother with it because it wasn’t really a big enough issue. Then we saw that this seemed like it was going to be a major epidemic at some point based on how difficult it was to get rid of it and how easy it spread.
But people figured it can’t be a problem it’s been quiet for 50 years it’s probably just a small little outbreak. So we were ramping up in a major way learning and studying bed bugs for a good 10, 12 years until it started to become on the radar. I mean New York Times 2005 put us on the front page of New York Times declaring bed bugs are back. Then it became official that they were back, but most people thought it was again it was only about foreigners or people being dirty or people just not taking care of themselves.
These are all myths. It doesn’t matter these things is not about just attacking you at nighttime. So we just got involved in it early on because we saw this trend and we’ve been heavily involved in it ever since.
SPP: All right Jeff. Well I know we are about out of time but I did want to give you a chance. I know we mentioned your book “Bed Bug Survival Guide”. Is there anywhere else you would like to lead our listeners to a Web site or anything that will educate thing or things that you have out there?
Jeff: Sure. I mean we have a site and all the proceeds of the site and everything you buy in there is going to also go to the charities I mentioned. The site is www.bedbugsurvivalguide.com. We have a lot of information blogs about bed bugs. You can also go on the site of www.petsawayinc.com, which has a lot of good information and tips for dealing with bed bugs. But it’s not nearly as expensive as the “Bed Bug Survival Guide” which is just going to help everyone in all walks of life teaching them how to travel, how to live, how to deal with kids who have bed bugs or if you’ve been exposed. It will guarantee for $9.00 you’re going to avoid bed bugs by at least 75% chance.
SPP: All right. Well that’s all I got for you. Again thank you so much. We will get in contact with you when it airs and we’ll send you a link and all that goods tuff.