Bedbugs? Before you call an exterminator, try this cheap solution!

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I'm a clean guy. I shower daily, shave every other day, change my sheets regularly, and am careful to straighten up the house before it becomes a breeding ground for disease and vermin. In other words, while I'm not Howard Hughes, I take personal hygiene very seriously. Consequently, when I began noticing little bumps on my legs a few months ago, I was pretty alarmed. The fact that my wife and daughter had them as well made me feel simultaneously relieved and disturbed; on the bright side, I realized that my bumps weren't a symptom of herpes or some debilitating infection that I caught off a toilet seat (I used to watch way too many medical dramas). The downside came with the realization that my wife, daughter, and I were now sharing our house with some unwanted visitors that my wife subsequently identified as bedbugs.

Bedbugs! I'd thought the little bastards were extinct. After all, the only place I'd ever encountered them before was in the pages of old English novels, where they were a tool for demonstrating the slovenly lives of various villains. After researching the bedbug issue, I discovered that, like me, many scientists had assumed that the little creepy crawlies were eliminated about 50 years ago through the use of DDT. Sadly, however, bedbugs have been on the rise over the past twenty years or so. The New York press has even taken to tracking infestations as they crop up in each borough.

I was pleased to discover that my family's bedbug problem wasn't a sign of filthiness or moral decrepitude, but I was still grossed out by the fact that tiny insects were crawling all over me at night, injecting my body with an anti-coagulant, and feasting on my delicious, flavorful blood. Later, I learned that, in all likelihood, our bloodsucking roommates jumped to us from another passenger on the subway, which both my wife and I ride regularly. As a recent New York Post article noted, the subways are teeming with bedbugs, or "blood-bugs" as the ever-restrained paper calls them. While it's always nice to hear about New Yorkers sharing, I began to realize that there are some things that I wish they'd keep to themselves.

And how did we get rid of our bedbug problem? Well, while I wandered from room to room, trying to crawl out of my skin while contemplating a slash-and-burn campaign of chemical warfare (I'm sure I can get my hands on some DDT), my wife calmly began an investigation of the best cures. Finally, she came across a few sites that advocated using lavender oil mixed with alcohol. Faced with a choice between a solution that's worked for 200 years and industrial chemicals that would probably give our grandkids gills, we decided to try the lavender oil. The method was simple: we put about twenty drops of lavender essential oil into a spray bottle that was filled with about 2 cups of denatured alcohol. We sprayed down our mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and anything else that remotely resembled fabric. The next day, the bugs were gone.

While I'm really, really impressed with both my wife's genius and the incredible effectiveness of cheap 19th century technology, I'm still looking into DDT. The little bastards aren't going to catch me unaware next time ...

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. Cancer-shmancer, DDT kills bedbugs!

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