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Bed bugs on the eve of summer vacation: A mom’s guide [+video]

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As the kids watched their beds, blankets, and dressers make their way to the curb, our son Avery, 14, said, “Man, I never realized grandmothers meant it literally when they say ‘Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.’ ”

Bed bugs are real, easily transferred to our homes, and expensive to cope with. However, everything we need to know comes from my granny, her sayings, and some moms who went buggy over these critters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bed bugs — blood-sucking insects that feed on humans while they sleep — are literally everywhere. “Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area," the CDC reports. "However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.”

Contrary to urban legend, bed bugs are not microscopic; those are mites. Bed bugs are reddish-brown, wingless, about the size of an apple seed, and can live several months without a blood meal.

I can tell you that while bites are painless, welts left behind are itchy, but they don’t transmit diseases. Some people are mildly allergic to them. The welts from bed bugs sometimes get written off as mosquito bites.

That was all the bad stuff. Now let’s talk about getting them to bug-off. I was perfectly serious about taking our cues from nursery rhymes and old wives' expressions because those old girls have forgotten more than we even know.

The bed bug, Cimex lectularius, was my childhood nickname given to me by my maternal grandmother, Anne. She called me “My little vance (vants)” which is Yiddish for bed bug. This makes little sense because she was a blonde, blue-eyed, Roman Catholic to the bone. According to her, it was also a Polish expression of endearment. I looked it up and in Polish the word for bed bug is pluskwa.

While she might have been a little off-base on nicknames, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Grandma Anneisms had some practical sense when it came to bed bug riddance.


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