The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe interviewed me about bedbugs and their treatment/prevention last week; you can listen here.  (My interview starts at minute 41.)

Aside from a brain fart where I said “spermatheca” rather than “testis”, I think I did ok at trying to keep it non-technical!

I want to try to cover some of the newer research on bedbugs over the next few months, since it’s a hot topic.  We talked about some of the new info about bedbug chemical signaling, but that didn’t make the cut into the podcast.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Sorry – can’t comment now. Busy running in circles shrieking like a 7 year-old-girl.

    Seriously, seriously cool! How did you get hooked up with the SGU?

  2. Good work. Was a good interview.
    On the subject of locusts in Australia the basic story is that exceptional rains across the inland arid zone is possibly going to lead to a good pulse of locusts. I’m in Alice Springs right now and the locust population here is already very high considering its the end of winter. I personally like these insects- they feed birds and the desert birdlife is really booming thanks to them.

  3. Hee, Carl! Thanks! Rebecca Watson is a good buddy. This is actually my second SGU interview–they interviewed me in 2007 about colony collapse disorder.

  4. Loved that interview and the one from a couple years ago I happened to listen to right after(I am going backwards through the SGU archives). One of my all time favorite segments on the SGU.

  5. Very interesting, they really had a laugh at your cost (in a non-nasty way)!

  6. I’m a regular listener to SGU from over the other side of the pond and I lurk around Skepchick every now and again. Your interview was really good I thought – pretty informative for a non-bug type person (not that there are bug-people!!). I thought you came across really well. I just have one criticism…..

    … can you please not do that again just as I am starting to eat lunch – and what’s worse it was salad. I had to keep lifting lettuce leaves and checking both sides – almost had to ask the restaurant to put the salad in the oven for 30 mins at 115F just to be sure. I am convinced now that bed bugs also love salad leaves – really bad timing on your part I feel

    I think that means you decribed things pretty well though – lol

  7. I enjoyed your segment and have bookmarked your “how to inspect your hotel room” page. I’m headed to Cleveland in a couple of days and am relieved to see the hotel’s not in the bed bug registry. (Who knew they had such a site?!?)

    One question: Suppose I go into a hotel room, tear it apart, and find what I think is evidence of bed bugs. Aside from reporting it to management, do I ask for a different room at the other end of the hall, leave the place entirely, or what?


  8. Don: I would try first for a bed as far as you can possibly get away from where you are in the same hotel; if you inspect that one and there are also signs, then make them put you up in a new place.

    Unfortunately, you are at the mercy of the hotel.
    They have your credit card on file, so they don’t *have* to do anything for you :(

  9. Great interview, I listened to it the day after it came out, and here I am a week later in a hotel for a conference, and one of my staff in another room has bed bugs. I feel responsible, they work for me after all. We’ve moved them to another room, but we’re trying to figure out what to do with the luggage. It’s in bags in the lobby right now, and if anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

    I’m thinking take all their clothes to a dry cleaner, and throw their luggage away.

    Also, lesson learned, the difference between a cheap hotel and an expensive one isn’t necessarily the likelihood of bed bugs, but how the hotel will react.

  10. There are places that will do a heat treatment of individual luggage pieces–but not sure if that’s available where you are. Dry cleaning/disposal is probably the way to go, but I don’t actually know if dry cleaning gets hot enough to kill the bugs. I’ll have to investigate.

  11. Emilio J. D'Alise October 12, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Just discovered this site (from the SGU interview). Lots of good stuff, links to other good stuff . . .

    . . . soon I’ll need to quit my job just to track stuff I’m interested in.

    Question . . . how mobile are bed-bugs? Do they trek 10-20 feet easily, or do they hang around within a feet or two?

    Second question . . . would a plastic barrier and your own single-use sheets lessen the chance of suffering from an infestation you might have missed during an inspection? Or are we getting infected no matter what we try?

    Finally . . . will it continue to get worse, with eventually all places infected? Or do these things run their course, periodically waning, and subsequently flaring up after a certain amount of time?

    I ask because from reading the blog and listening to the interview, we are basically screwed.

  12. Apparently, dry cleaning is effective at killing bed bugs.
    HOWEVER: you need to tell the dry cleaners that’s the issue, so they know to keep those clothes separate from everything, and handle them in a way that won’t allow cross-contamination.

  13. Emilio–bedbugs are surprisingly mobile, but they won’t walk if they don’t have to. So, if you moved into the living room and out of your bedroom, that might work for a day or so. And then…they would find you.

    I’m guessing you are asking about hotels with the second question? I think it would be way more hassle to bring in a mattress cover and your own sheets than it’s worth!

    As for the last question, I think in a couple more years we’ll have some new tools to use in fighting bedbugs–there is a lot of research going on in how they signal chemically, and that could make a very effective trap. As more people become aware of the issue, that will also help. It’s a good thing that bed bugs are in the news, since that means more vigilance!

  14. Just came back from a weekend away where I used you tips on checking for bed bugs at the hotel. Thanks so much!!

  15. I’m a bit late to this party, but here goes anyway. Loved the interview, but a question occured to me.

    If bedbugs don’t carry disease, don’t produce a reaction in most people, are generally harmless, and are pretty much invisible, then what’s the problem with having them around?

Comments are closed.