Working Class Terror: BED BUGS

Friday, September 10, 2010

By Yvonne Tran

Yes, yes. You probably have all read the NY Times articles on bed bugs terrorizing cities from the Big Apple to Detroit to Columbus, OH. You probably even googled what they looked like and cringed in anticipation when you opened your sheets at night. You can’t stop talking about it to your co-workers - describing new facts you’re learning from the media blitz on these little parasites.

Okay, maybe that’s just me.

But it is a real and financially devastating problem for many folks. Some of the hardest hit are not just the random White upper/middle class families/couples/singles living in NYC (that are quoted all the time in the media) but the working class families and communities of color who can’t afford the thousands upon thousands of dollars to eradicate these small beasts (or as my friend calls them, “Satan’s spawns”).

So, BB (since it’s gotten that intimate with some folks), are about the size of an apple seed and looks like a tick (refer to this post’s picture). They are noticeable and they basically feed on humans at night when you’re sleeping. They are particularly tricky because they give off an anesthesia agent that makes the bites painless then and very itchy later. These creatures have eluded even the best of pest control companies and city officials.

So how are folks who can’t afford all the remedies including using expensive pesticides, multiple visits, bedbug sniffing dogs, steam cleaning regularly, doing? Sitting tight and bearing through it. According to the NY Times, “it’s not unusual for the typical afflicted family to spend $5,000 or more on inspections, exterminator fees, cleaning and storage”. With that kind of money needed, plus lots more to maintain your bed bug free home, with the additional cost of needing to throw out a lot of your infested possessions … it can amount to a hefty sum.

Families, and especially low-income families, do not need solutions that include bending environmental laws to use more deadly pesticides or lists of bed bug control companies. Families do need cities and the federal government to invest in researching more sustainable and low-cost methods to control rapidly rising bed bug populations. BB has caused PTSD, blackouts for folk’s social and personal lives, and intolerable physical suffering. With the stigma of being poor already affecting the lives of our communities, lets not let BB be an added burden hoisted on the homes and families who don’t have the resources to remedy this pest situation.


  1. Bed bugs are hard to eradicate and they are a serious health risk as they carry diseases. For my part, I never buy second hand mattresses and I avoid cotton based cushion for sofas and I avoid headboards that are padded. Also, I make sure I change the mattress every five years to avoid infestation.