The love nibble of the bed bugs

by Ken Carpenter

            Bed bugs have become one of the trendiest blood suckers around, even more so than the popular movie vampires. It is not that they are admired or, Lord forbid, lusted after, but in the 21st century they are likely to show up in any high-class hotel at any time, especially in New York.

            Filthy rooms do not draw them and moral decay does not attract them, so bums and perverts are no more likely to find out how much the bed bug bites than you, Mr. and Mrs. Average, are. Bed bugs travel wherever they can hitch a ride, and once there are what you might call them entrenched guests. If there is occasional blood and a tight crack to sleep in, it is home sweet home. The class of citizen means nothing, and rich snobs are as tasty and handy anyone, though more capable of shelling out the dough for hotel rooms and a professional bed bug killer to take over their house for a while.

            Problem is, a bed bug can go over a year without eating, so abandoning a place does not mean they won’t be around when you come back. If they can eat, they will suck blood for about five minutes once a week, then scurry, or waddle, back to their hideout.

            Male bed bugs are complete cads, making male cads almost amiable by comparison. When they eat they get sexually excited, and bed bug sex is not normal, if there is such a thing as normal bug sex. Male bed bugs perform “traumatic insemination”, which is labeled as such because their “hypodermic genitalia” just pierces anywhere it wants to, ignoring any attempt at finding the female organ that was most likely designed for the act.

            Anyway, this creates a lot of sore spots on the long-suffering females, shortening their lives, and also wounds a lot of careless males who happen to get in the way. The males all deserve a vicious little impaling occasionally, given their unsavory habits, but it doesn’t change their ways when the table is turned.

            The females still get impregnated, no matter where they are stabbed, They lay about five eggs at a time, and several hundred in their lifetime.

            Bed bugs resemble a lentil, but don’t think of that the next time you eat lentil soup. I doubt there are any bed bugs in it.

            Bed bugs can’t fly, and neither can their close relatives, “bat bugs” and “bird bugs”. They can crawl like a bugger though.

            DDT, which is toxic to all living things, wiped out billions of bed bugs and tons of other things in the middle of the 20th century. It was finally made illegal in the USA in 1972, and bald eagles, for one thing, started making a comeback almost immediately. So did bed bugs, though they did not really begin to flourish until the 21st century.

            Their numbers are growing yearly, and New York City is the capitol of Bed Bug Ville. The rest of the world is scratching along with them, but supposedly all the air traffic through New York keeps them well supplied.

            One hotel employee, told to search a New York hotel room after a bedbug complaint, searched the bed closely and found none. When he turned he looked at the suitcase on the floor and over 200 bed bugs had already moved up on it. It was like one of them gave a little “Toot, toot, the taxi is here!”

            My Grandma was renowned for her bed bug sniffing talent, which is not a common gift. They are said to have a peculiar coriander-like odor in a heavily infested residence, which makes me itch to think about, but apparently most folks can’t smell the fiends.

Grandma didn’t need an infestation to smell them, she could sniff out even small numbers. During the depression, it was almost a daily occurrence for tramps and transients to stop by the farmhouse to look for a day’s work or bum a meal. Grandma was not one to shy away from a chore, and she considered it her duty to give strangers a good sniffing to see if they passed the bed bug test.

If they didn’t they never even got on the porch. She still fed the transients, but they stayed well away from the house. I can’t imagine it was much fun sniffing them even if they had no bed bugs. She came from sturdy stock.

            Bed bug sniffing dogs are getting popular now in the big cities, though said to be expensive. How much is an itch worth, anyway?

            I’ve never seen nor been fed on by a bed bug, and I probably just cursed myself by saying it.

            It has been said that I have a bad habit of doing that.

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