The Politics of Bed Bugs
The Politics of Bed Bugs
bed bugs

My son had spent the at a friend’s house about three weeks prior to the start of the bites. At first, we ignored them, thinking somehow our dog must have brought in fleas. It wasn’t until the bites continued and became worse that we started tearing apart his bedroom only to find the horror that was beneath his mattress. Bed bugs had invaded our home.

My son then told me the friend he had stayed the night with nearly a month before had had them, but they were supposedly gone. I panicked. I yelled and screamed and began throwing his bed out the back door. There was just no way I could afford an exterminator, and so I purchased some bug spray and commenced to spray every crack and crevice in his room. Bad mistake.

What they don’t tell you on cans of spray you can purchase in the store is that these bugs have developed an immunity to the spray. Sure, if you spray them directly it will kill them, but the residual does nothing. So, the bugs avoid the sprayed area until the threat has passed, usually finding their way through your home to other areas.

We had to throw out our sofa and love seat along with my son’s bed, and more than a quarter of other things we owned. Basically, if it was replaceable, it went to the dump. We heat treated all our clothing and shoes, and sealed other items that could not be heat treated in bags. They’ll remain sealed in bags for two years until the threat of bugs reemerging from them is gone.

Altogether this event has cost us more than $4,500, including hiring the exterminator I didn’t think I could afford. Most of this is paid for by credit, leaving us in debt, but bug free.

There is a lot of bad information on the internet about bed bugs. There are sites totally dedicated to bed bugs that do have some good information like, but one must tread carefully.

Eradicating bed bugs is a huge, painstaking and expensive war rarely won without help from a licensed, skilled exterminator. There is diatomaceous earth that can be spread. It’s affordable and effective, but will only make your home about 99% bug free. Having even one live bed bug remaining in your home means that in about a month, you’ll fight this nightmare again. Something few can afford either emotionally or financially.

My battle with bed bugs educated me in much more than extermination. I learned that money can be the variable that wins the war with bed bugs. Had I not had access to financial means, we would still be fighting infestation.

In Indiana, there are no government regulations concerning bed bugs. The health department offers no resources. Therefore, landlords and furniture stores are not legally required to inform you if there has been an infestation. 

Without resources, laws, or help fighting these bugs, many people who lack the financial resources to hire an exterminator or replace most of their belongings are left to fight the battle on their own with whatever information they can find. Only making it worse, many rent-to-own stores—which prey on the poor anyway, are also infested with bed bugs. So where are people from the lower socioeconomic rungs supposed to turn?

Bed bugs are not limited to poor households. They know no boundaries. Bed bugs are as likely to infest fancy hotels or upscale residences as they are government subsidized housing. Bed bugs have been found in office buildings and movie theaters, making them easy to carry home. Bed bugs don’t feed on food or trash, and so infestation has nothing to do with cleanliness. Like fleas, they feed on blood. The only difference is people with financial means can combat them, while people without access to funds cannot.

Imagine living in a home where you are effectively eaten alive every time you go to sleep. It’s something from a nightmare, and we’re all equally as likely to find ourselves in this situation. The sad part is that for some, the nightmare is ongoing. Beyond the normal stigma that is attached to being poor, is the stigma of being poor and having bugs in your home. It’s easy to snub our noses at people who say those taboo words: “bed bugs,” but what many don’t realize is that regardless of money, even the very rich could have them lurking under the sheets—maybe even more so as the very rich are more likely to travel, coming into contact with them in hotels. After they’ve brought them home, though, those with the deeper pockets can afford to wake up from the nightmare, while those without must try to sleep through this terror every night.

There are many facts of life lower income families must face: hunger, second-hand clothing and furniture, broken down cars, and lack of medical care. Joining that list more frequently than ever before is the reality of bed bugs. The war against those minuscule terrorists is one very few poor families will ever win. It is yet another glaring reminder of the chasm between those who have, and those who do not.


tammieTammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff.  The root of her love for books, writing, and  animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting  sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!

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