Skymall is Selling Paranoia for $79.95

Hurry, hurry! Step right up! Got a problem with bed bugs? Well then come right over here, friend. I’ve got something to ail all your cures!

The day I posted my last blog talking about the sordid past of bed bug control, I stumbled upon an article about something about as ludicrous as using a feather to lay eggs whites on your bed frame. Skymall is selling “Bed Bug Sleeping Cocoons.” From the picture and description, it appears to be that a sheet and and a sleeping bag had a baby. You can take this love child to hotels and sleep away from the hotel sheets to prevent being bitten.

“This portable sleeping cocoon is made from a specially woven fabric that is impervious to bed bugs. Its tightly wound polyester threads are only 1-micron apart to prevent 100% of bed bugs from penetrating the fabric. The durable polyester threads are impervious to bed bugs’ teeth yet the fabric remains soft, pliable, and breathable for optimal sleeping comfort in a hotel bed. The hooded top protects your head and neck yet allows you to breathe naturally, and the entire unit fits in the included tote for ease of travel.”

First of all, bed bugs do not have teeth. They have a proboscis that they insert into the skin, but they don’t have teeth. Some may call that semantics, but I say that if you don’t understand the pest you are “preventing”, then you shouldn’t be selling products. If they’d done their research, they’d also know that this cocoon won’t actually prevent bed bugs from biting. Sure, it might cover arms and legs, but if a person’s face is exposed they will go for that if it means a blood meal. Those who are traveling should be exercise caution and inspect their hotel, but instead they are being handed packaged hysteria. Skymall took a molehill and made it into a polyester mountain.

If it were just a cocoon, I suppose I could roll my eyes, but there is an entire slew of products that flim flam you out of your cash in the name of bed bugs. Don’t get me wrong, Skymall does have some good products. I’m all for mattress and pillow encasements. Even the luggage liner seems like a pretty good idea, but then it starts to get ridiculous.

Perhaps my favorite of the Sky Mall entries, are the UV lights they claim kill bed bugs. For $159.99 you can get a lightsaber-looking device which you’re more likely to actually need to use to fend off Darth Vader if he pops in for a cup of tea than for it to kill bed bugs. UV, or ultraviolet, light is often used as a method to kill microorganisms. I’ll even admit to having a UV toothbrush sanitizer, because while I can handle pests all things human gross me out. But anything on my toothbrush or anything else UV light is targeted at are only visible under microscopes. Bed bugs are small, but not virus or bacteria small. UV light alone is not enough to kill bed bugs and larger organisms. UV lights are used in pest control, but it’s often to determine the presence or trace of animals, not to kill them. Even when UV is used in bug zappers, the light only attracts the bugs it’s the electric shock that kills them. It would be more cost effective- and generally more effective overall- to make lightsaber noises while you use a flight swatter. Also, it’s rather fun.

Another questionable product is the “Bed Bug Patch”. This patch claims to use Vitamin B1 (or Thiamine) to repel bed bugs. The bed bug patch website says that B1 is released through perspiration and the scent of it offsets the attraction to the CO2 released by your body. It’s very important to note the disclaimer that these claims have not been evaluated by the FDA. There is no viable proof or scientific study that backs up this information. Also, this is one of the few bed bug treatments that actually involves introducing something into your body. Especially if you have certain medical conditions or are on certain medications you should talk to your doctor first. And from a pest professional view they’re not actually that useful. If you have an infestation in your home, these patches will do nothing to control it. Even if they do work, the bed bugs will just find someone else to bite or will hide and wait until you’re not wearing a patch to strike. Bed bugs can survive around 6 months without a blood meal in the ideal conditions, do you really want to be wearing patches that long? I’m not big on confrontation, but paying for Thiamine passive aggression for that long seems a bit over the top even for me. And even if you’re just looking for a way to protect yourself while you’re in a hotel, inspecting the bed before you climb in and keeping your suitcase off the bed is much more effective and cost efficient.

There are tons of products out there for bed bugs, why am I so offended by these? Skymall is capitalizing on paranoia and hysteria. Creating a market for products like the bed bug cocoon creates the idea that bed bugs are so horrific that creating yourself into a polyester caterpillar is the only way to deal with them. But caution though inspection, and yes maybe even a luggage liner from Skymall, are more effective in combating bed bugs than patches and CSI-like tools. Bed bugs are already frustrating and stressful to deal with, but by inflating the horror you make them infinitely more difficult to deal with when people are actually faced with an infestation.

If you’re ever unsure about a product or it claims to be the cure-all to your bed bug problem, be sure to do some research before shelling out your hard-earned cash. Instead you can use that $159 to get a super rad Snapping Swamp Gator Statue. I know I could use one of those!

Brittany is a licensed pest control professional. Bay Area Bed Bugs is the official bed bug blog of Pestec Integrated Pest Management.

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