Email: Bedbug Infestations Due to Imported Clothing

Netlore Archive

Email rumor blames America's bedbug 'epidemic' on infested clothing, bedding, and towels imported from foreign countries for sale in the U.S.

Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: Oct. 2010
Status: Mixed (see below)

Email contributed by Heidi T., Oct. 4, 2010:

Subject: Bed Bug Epidemic - true

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.

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 advisor to many of these stores, as prevention and after they have the problem.

Send this information on to those on your e-mail list so that this good prevention information gets around quickly.

Analysis: While it's true that the U.S. has experienced what the CDC calls an "alarming resurgence" of bedbug infestations over the past few years, I have yet to find an expert source that attributes the problem to foreign-made garments, towels, or bedding.

And though it's also true that in recent months a few clothing stores in New York City, including two owned by Abercrombie & Fitch and a Victoria's Secret location in lower Manhattan, were closed for fumigation after it was discovered they were infested with bedbugs, the problem was demonstrably local in origin, not foreign. Other businesses in the city having nothing to do with imported merchandise were found to have bedbug issues as well. And in the case of the Abercrombia & Fitch stores in particular, a third Manhattan location was found to be bedbug-free even though it carries the same products, as were the company's warehouses.

That said, the advice given above for ridding garments of bedbugs — namely placing them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes — is actually sound and echoes that of many pest control experts.

For example, entomologist Michael F. Potter of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture recommends the following:

Infested and infestation-prone bedding and garments will need to be bagged and laundered (120°F minimum) since these items cannot be treated with insecticides. Another effective and efficient option is to place clothing, toys, shoes, backpacks, etc., in a clothes dryer set at medium to high heat for 10 to 20 minutes. This will kill all bed bug life stages and can be done alone or in conjunction with laundering.

Dry cleaning will also kill bedbugs, Potter notes, but that method is inadvisable because introducing bedbug-ridden garments into a commercial laundry or dry cleaning establishment could worsen the infestation exponentially.

Read more about coping with bedbug infestations

See also:

The Snake in the Store
A shopper in a department store is bitten by a snake while handling a coat or blanket made in a foreign country.

Sources and further reading:

Should Bed Bugs Worry You? Hotels & Resorts

Bedbugs: Hollister Store Infested with Blood-Sucking Insects
CBS News, 2 July 2010

The Bedbug Abercrombie Reopens Today!
New York magazine, 8 July 2010

CDC/EPA Statement on Bedbug Control
CDC Environmental Health Services, 2010

Last updated 10/07/10