Once famed for its Prohibition-era gangsters, the Windy City is today a vital and prosperous Midwestern metropolis – yet there is still a sleazy element to be found in the city, walking on six legs rather than two: the numerous bed bugs in Chicago. Though they do not carry Tommy guns or wear fedoras and trench coats, these arthropod hoodlums are found everywhere from the corridors of power to the halls of JP Morgan Chase bank, where bed bugs have been lurking and biting some of the city’s highest financiers.
The Metropolitan Tenants Organization, or MTO, declared in 2011 that it was likely that every high rise apartment block in Chicago has a minimum of one bed bug infested apartment, and likely more. A decade ago, only 10% of the top thousand exterminators in Chicago and other major U.S. cities had ever handled a bed bug problem. Now, more than 99% of them have helped tenants, landlords, and business owners deal with these miniscule, apple-seed shaped “vampires”.
Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius, is a surprisingly tough creature, which explains why it manages to spread so far and so successfully. They are very subtle creatures – they make no sound, and communicate with each other using chemical scents only. When sneaking up on someone to bite, they walk very slowly and lightly. However, if the victim stirs or begins to move around, they will flee swiftly with an ant-like run.
» Qualified Bed Bug Extermination Services In Your Local Area. Get FREE Quotes Here!
Bed bugs can survive dehydration and hunger with a toughness that only a fictional superhero could match among humans. For example, these insects can survive losing a third of their total weight to dehydration, though they die when the temperature reaches above 120º F. Young individuals are weaker, but once they reach adulthood, squashing them is probably the fastest way to kill bed bugs.
As is true in every bed bug infested city, the City of Chicago has taken official action against the surging masses of blood-suckers that have multiplied in recent years. The urgency of the situation was shown by the fact that the legislation creating the Structural Pest Control Advisory Council Subcommittee on bed bugs was passed unanimously.
Since bed bugs in Chicago resist many conventional chemicals people use to try to control them, and the highly effective DDT is no longer legal or available in the United States, integrated pest management is needed to put the insects in their place. This means that blocking off crevices where the insects can hide by using caulking, selective pesticide use, and other measures are all needed to be both safe for people and effective against the persistent bugs themselves.
The MTO is also doing their part by trying to encourage people to come forward to report bed bug infestations, since only a small fraction are ever called in. It is understandable that some people are worried about being held responsible by their landlords for the insects, or that they will need to pay for expensive removal measures. Yet as the MTO points out, defeating bed bugs in Chicago is a cooperative effort since they spread so easily. Every apartment cleansed of the creatures is another potential pool of insect “commandos” wiped out and thus unable to infect nearby homes.
Any home, office, or space where warm-blooded “prey” can be found is fair game for bed bugs to flourish. So, anywhere that people or animals live regularly should also be regularly checked for the “spoor” of these sneaky little beasts. Some ways to tell if they’re nearby include:
- Bites – these extremely itchy bites usually show up in rows or clumps (or both). They don’t spread disease, but you shouldn’t scratch them, since that can cause skin infections.
- Droppings – bed bugs leave their feces where they feed. That usually means on your sheets. Look for small coppery-brown stains on your bedclothes.
- Shed skins and husks – since young bed bugs shed skins easily, you may find some dried husk along the seams of the mattress, behind the baseboards or under the box springs, together with some dead bugs.
Like New York, Chicago uses the 311 number as a hotline for reporting bed bugs. Advice on exterminators and how to get rid of bed bugs can also be gotten at that number.
The City of Chicago’s Business Affairs & Consumer Protection page, online at http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/bacp/supp_info/bed_bug_information.html, has fact sheets, control strategies, and, near the bottom of the page, online complaint links letting you send in a form to report bed bug infestations, and another link for filing complaints against companies that sold you furniture infested with bed bugs.
The fight against bed bugs in Chicago has not yet been won, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and plenty of help if you find yourself backed into a corner by these pests.
Individuals and families who need to travel to Chicago are highly advised to inspect your hotel bed and room for any signs of bed bugs. Look around the mattress for any dark spots or light brown exoskeleton skins that bed bugs shed. Plus as an added protection, spray your bags with an EPA-approved pest repellent that kills bed bugs and their eggs before you leave the hotel for home.
Quick Bed Bug Resources For Residents In Chicago
- D-I-Y and commerical solutions to treat and protect yourself against bed bugs: http://www.getridofbedbugsathome.com/bed-bug-supply
- Bed bug report number: 311
- Info and online complaint forms: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/bacp/supp_info/bed_bug_information.html
- MTO page with bed bug news: http://www.tenants-rights.org/category/health/