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Beware of Bed Bug Internet Hoax

Jeffrey Hahn, Asst. Extension Entomologist

There is a story making the rounds on the internet these days. It goes like this:

Hi All: A bit of information that you might like to know about. We have friends here in our community and one of their sons is an entomologist (insect expert), and has been telling them that there is an epidemic of bed bugs now occurring in America. Recently I have heard on the news that several stores in NYC have had to close due to bed bug problems, as well as a complete mall in New Jersey.

Bed bug
Jeff Hahn
He says that since much of our clothing, sheets, towels, etc. now comes from companies outside of America, (sad but true), even the most expensive stores sell foreign clothing from China, Indonesia, etc. The bed bugs are coming in on the clothing as these countries do not consider them a problem. He recommends that if you buy any new clothing, even underwear and socks, sheets, towels, etc. that you bring them into the house and put them in your clothes dryer for at least 20 minutes. The heat will kill them and their eggs. DO NOT PURCHASE CLOTHES AND HANG THEM IN THE CLOSET FIRST. It does not matter what the price range is of the clothing, or if the outfit comes from the most expensive store known in the U.S. They still get shipments from these countries and the bugs can come in a box of scarves or anything else for that matter That is the reason why so many stores, many of them clothing stores have had to shut down in NYC and other places. All you need is to bring one item into the house that has bugs or eggs and you will go to hell and back trying to get rid of them. He travels all over the country as an adviser to many of these stores, as prevention and after they have the problem.

It is true that we are experiencing a significant increase in bed bug problems that has reached epidemic proportions. It is also true that a few retail stores have had bed bug problems and have had to temporarily close. However the rest of the story is unnecessarily alarmist and untrue.

While some clothing stores have found bed bugs, it is not because they were brought into the store on new clothes but rather they hitchhiked into stores on individuals that entered them. Fortunately, the incidence of bed bugs in clothing stores has been rare and owners have taken steps to prevent and better deal with bed bug problems. Because bed bugs would have a hard time finding a person resting for a period of time in clothing store, it is difficult for them to establish a reproducing colony which greatly reduces the risk of someone accidentally bringing bed bugs homes with them.

The idea that you need to worry about clothes you buy, especially those made in Asia, is an unfounded and false statement. The chances of bed bugs inadvertently hitching a ride in new clothes is extremely remote and there are not any known cases of this actually happening. If this was true, we would be routinely seeing bed bugs associated with clothing stores, instead of rarely.

This letter looks like it was meant to alarm and frighten people. Ignore it and continue to buy new clothes as you normally would. We have enough in things in our lives that gives us stress without unnecessarily adding to the list.
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