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Central Standard

The Growing Populations Of Bed Bugs And Lice

Michael Aulia
Flickr - CC

‘Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.’  It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard a lot, but perhaps holds a different significance to you if you’ve had a bed bug infestation or know someone who has.  Cases of bed bugs have been rising in recent years. But just who or what are these vermin?  They feed on human blood, don’t contract diseases,  and can be hard to talk about. Perhaps more importantly, how do we get rid of them?

A fully grown bed bug is visible to the naked eye and is about the size of an apple seed. A baby bed bug is only one millimeter long and barely visible. They aren't nocturnal, although many think they are. Rather, they will feed whenever you are quiet and still, which for most people is at night. 

Luckily, they don't spread disease unlike fleas, mosquitos, and ticks. "They're the best kind of bug to have," says Michael Swoyer with the Kansas City Department of Health. Nonetheless, those who have infestation problems pay big bucks to exterminate their unwelcome roommates. Darryl Franke of SOS Pest Control says he has seen exponential growth in bed bug cases in Kansas City.

But in the case of community living situations, who is responsible? The tenant, or the landlord? That's not always so clear. Typically bed bugs are the responsibility of the tenant, but these specifications should be stated in the renter's contract as to who is responsible for treating the space. Swoyer recommends to always call an exterminator. Homemade remedies are not always effective, whereas a professional can use the necessary treatments to make your home bed bug-free. 

Unfortunately, these are not our only uninvited guests. Everyone probably experiences receiving a letter from school informing you that a student has head lice. A frenzy starts as both children and parents speculate as to who may have gotten lice. Your head seems to suddenly have a phantom itch as the paranoia sets in. The ugly truth is: lice can happen to anyone. In fact, lice even prefer clean hair as they jump from hair follicle to hair follicle.

In addition to multiple at-home remedies that some try, there are even salons where one can go to get lice professionally removed. Lindsay Handy withMiracle Sisters Lice Removal specializes in lice removal. She tells the kids who come in that "only nice kids get lice," because they have been friendly by hugging and sharing.

Curious as to how to avoid lice? Katie Shepherd of the Shepherd Institute says there are three ways to keep away lice, especially in school environments. 

  1. Have kids, especially girls, wear their hair back.
  2. Use a mint spray in your hair. While we find the odor pleasant, lice hate it. 
  3. Buy a lice comb and check your child's hair for 2-5 minutes once or twice a week.


  • Darryl Franke, President of SOS Pest Control
  • Lindsay Handy, Office Manager for Miracle Sisters Lice Removal
  • Katie Shepherd, Director of the Shepherd Institute
  • Michael Swoyer, Supervisor of Rat Control with the KCMO Department of Health
Central Standard public healthbugs
Every part of the present has been shaped by actions that took place in the past, but too often that context is left out. As a podcast producer for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, I aim to provide context, clarity, empathy and deeper, nuanced perspectives on how the events and people in the past have shaped our community today. In that role, and as an occasional announcer and reporter, I want to entertain, inform, make you think, expose something new and cultivate a deeper shared human connection about how the passage of time affects us all. Reach me at hogansm@kcur.org.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.