"Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite." The old bedtime blessing used to seem a bit quaint, since bed bugs historically have been an old-world problem or one associated with developing countries. But the population of these irritating little critters has exploded in the 21st century, and they've turned up across Europe, Canada and North America. Once you get an infestation of bed bugs, they are hard to get rid of, and your renter's insurance probably doesn't cover it.
Cimex lectularius, commonly known as the bed bug, is a parasitic, wingless insect that feeds on blood. These little, brownish-red critters aren't particular about where that blood comes from. They are as happy to dine on you as they are to feed on your dog. The term, "bed bug," comes from their habit of feeding on their victims while they sleep. Since they can live for several months between meals, they can be hard to detect until its too late and you have a full-blown infestation.
Bed bugs don't transmit or spread any known diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But their bites can produce tiny bite marks, and might result in an allergic reaction that usually takes the form of mild to severe itching. This itching can result in the irresistible need to scratch, and excessive scratching can break the skin and might even lead to a secondary infection.
Dealing with a bed bug infestation can be challenging, and usually involves a combination of treatments, which might include both chemical and nonchemical procedures. Professional pest management firms might use heat, pesticides and industrial vacuums to try to eradicate the bed bug population, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Do-it-yourself treatments include putting infested clothing and bedding materials in a cloths dryer on the high heat setting for at least one hour.
If you have a typical renter's insurance policy, you are probably not covered for a bed bug infestation. Chances are, your landlord is not covered by his policy either. According to the Insurance Information Institute, insurance companies consider bed bugs to be in the same category as other vermin, such as cockroaches or mice. Keeping your residence free from vermin infestations is the homeowner's or renter's responsibility, so most renter's insurance policies do not include a bed bug infestation with their list of covered events.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.