Saturday, October 20, 2012

sleep tight

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz… and it’s time to take your carpets, tatted rugs and druggets outside, and beat the dust out of them.

Aunty recalls that another spring cleaning chore when she was a child was dragging bedding outside to prevent bed bug infestation.

Theoretically, a day in the sun will kill any of the little rotters hiding on a mattress, but they tend to be nocturnal and, like cockroaches, secrete themselves into tiny crevices about the place where they can hide in the dark until dark.

For this reason, Grandma had the family pouring buckets of scalding hot water with a ‘little’ caustic soda in all the crevices of the bed frames – wooden or metal frames with wire bases – to kill any of the little blighters.

Kapok mattresses can be heavy and often had handles on the side, but there was a time that even the newer style inner spring mattresses had handles attached to them – heaven knows why they don’t any more.

Not so long ago it was against health regulations in Victoria to sell second hand mattresses, but they are now freely available from op-shops. All of which I mention because the bed bug is making a comeback. It’s not so much a problem because they have become pesticide resistant, but a problem because traditional measures to control them have been abandoned, and the pesticides we do use tend to target other pests, for example, the cockroach bombs that were selling like hotcakes in Melbourne a few years ago.

There were reports that New York had a plague of bed bugs a few years ago. Hotels are hardly going to report outbreaks to government departments for fear of sullying their reputations, but in the U.S. a couple of hotels have been sued by customers who have been bitten by the little buggers.
Like rats and German cockroaches, they are illegal immigrants to Australia, making their way here mainly in backpacks, the lining of suitcases, and the weird and wonderful things travellers try to bring through customs.

My mother had always been obsessive about turning and rotating mattresses, though I don’t recall having actually checked the lining of mattresses. [Just writing this has got me scratching – the same as whenever people mention head lice.].

After hearing someone talking about bed bugs yesterday I came straight home and vacuumed all our mattresses and bed bases.

Apparently an adult bed bug is roughly the size of a ladybird.

YouTube is awash with clips showing hideous bed bug infestations – no point in advertising unless you overstate your case. But here is an unpaid community announcement type clip which has still left me a tad paranoid. No sign of bed bugs, just some tips about how to check a hotel room before you settle in for the night.


  1. I really wish I hadn't gone to You Tube to see bed bug infestations.

    1. Not attractive, is it?

      There is also some Brotherhood of St Laurence footage of Melbourne /Richmond in the early 30s showing the appalling slums people were living in. After seeing the bed bugs in those, I think I would have been a street kid for sure.

  2. Yes, but you have to keep that footage in the context of the time. Most people did not have much. The way those in the film lived was not much below the norm.

    1. No judgment implied, just a pathetic attempt at humour. Perhaps people did often sleep outside [weather permitting] just to get away from the rotters?

      As for the slums, they marked a pretty appalling gap between the haves and the have nots. Now that I've seen the footage, it makes stories of the inner city rent evictions during the depression take on a whole new meaning.

  3. I have only one question. What the hell is a 'drugget'???

    1. He He... The rug or mat you put over your carpet to protect your carpet.