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Would DDT kill bedbugs in New York City?

"It's the bedbugs, you know," My True Love said to me at the breakfast table just the other day, as we were discussing her upcoming trip to New York City. Sure, I said, yes, I said, uh huh, I said, one eye on my breakfast, another on the newspaper, yet a third on the day before me, a fourth on the weather, a fifth on ... Well, you get the picture. Yet another male about to be accused of communication skills akin to a deaf Neanderthal. I was nodding up a storm, making noncommittal neutral vocal responses, giving brief eye contact. Thinking inside, boy, I'm getting pretty good at this.

"They're everywhere," she went on, and somewhere, deep down inside my crippled male listening center, I began to pay attention. Really. I did. Suddenly, I felt warm all over, which, as they say, is just like wetting your pants in a dark suit: You feel warm all over, but no one notices. Well. I hope you're noticing. I. Was. Listening.

What's the deal on bedbugs, I asked her, mentally pivoting on what grandma used to say to us when, as little children, we stayed overnight with her. "Night, night. Don't let the bedbugs bite." Hee, hee, thought we. Bedbugs. Grandma's so silly.

I said: They're in New York City? Thinking, odd. Bedbugs in ...

"They're everywhere. They're a national epidemic, and they're especially prevalent in all the hotels in the city." She went on about how she would have to keep her suitcase in a plastic bag when she wasn't using it, inspect the seams in the mattress, have the heebie-jeebies thinking about trying to sleep, the chance of bringing them back here.

Bringing them back here? They'd come to visit here? Bedbugs?

Grandma, it turns out, wasn't being so cute. Bedbugs, according to a little bit of InterNet research, have turned into a pesticide-resistant scourge all across the country. There's no little bit of anger at the EPA for their banning of the main pesticide that effectively kills these little buggers.

As I thought more about bedbugs, while, I confess, in my conscious background My True Love murmured on about them, I suddenly remembered the fuss our mother made each time we packed up and moved home for the summer from those first years of college. I attributed that at the time to some motherly motive or other which I was unlikely to either discover or understand, but now I kind of remember she lived in horror of us bringing some undesirable livestock back into the house.

"Pile all your clothes and washables up," she said with the business-like tone of Someone Who Must Be Obeyed, the first of many women with that tone. From there, it all went through some pretty microscopic examinations. She pulled at seams, shook sheets outside, and generally went obsessive-compulsive, to my thinking.

I tuned back into My True Love, who was saying, "We were constantly battling dormitory rooms and bedbug infestations, with the main problem being that the students would pack up, move all their stuff to a friends, and trot the bedbugs around the community some more."

Good grief! Go to The Big City. Bring home visitors.

When my brother and I came home from Vietnam, I think Ma wanted to burn everything, believing strongly -- based on the way everything smelled -- that some new superbug was going to bed with her. Little did those bugs know! Not a chance in hell! Not while she had enough bleach and lye and laundry additives to clear the planet of all known life.

I wonder if common Yard and Garden Raid will kill bedbugs. After smearing Army-issue insect repellents on myself in Vietnam, I quickly realized Vietnam was the insect equivalent of the big leagues, and I wrote home for my parents to send me some Raid quick! These things were going to carry their number one son off. I don't know what the EPA thinks of using Raid as a personal deodorant, which I did for 329 days, but it hasn't seemed to cause too many physical glitches.

One, maybe. I have trouble listening. "You never listen." Oh, boy, how many times have I heard that. It was the Raid, I say as a defense. It might have been a good bug repellent, but for deflecting blame, it's worthless.

I'll bet it'll deflect bedbugs.

I've got some DDT left over from dad's dairy barn. Where was the EPA back in the late 1950s, when we were using hand-pump sprayers and painting cows with the stuff to control the fly population. Boy. We were filled with all the self-satisfaction of someone doing good, weren't we? Better living through chemistry. Spray that cow again, dad used to say. She still looks jumpy. Too many flies, kick you when you put the milker on.

I'll bet DDT will kill bedbugs.

"Maybe you should take some of my special bugkiller spray with you," I said to My True Love.

New York City could use some wide spectrum pesticide, to my way of thinking.