The end of Zen? Bed bugs take up yoga

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | September 11, 2013 - 8:59AM

On the bed bug prevention calendar, this is the time of year to get familiar with back-to-school prevention tips. You'll find those here.   But entomologist, pest control expert and bed bug guru Gil Bloom of Standard Pest Management recently drew our attention to a potential bed bug source we hadn't heard much about before: Yoga studios.

Bloom says he’s treated seven yoga studios (in addition to a community center and community gym) in the past 18 months, raising concern about yoga  mats. On the bright side, says Bloom, the level of bed bugs in these cases was low and the owners were most cooperative.

So what's going  on? Deploying some extermination lingo, Bloom says that in these partuicular cases the bugs were “captives.”

“Bed bugs enter a location either as captives or volunteers,” he explains. “Volunteers gain access by their own six feet from hallways, adjacent units etc. Captives are carried in by people through their belongings and introduced items. In regard to captive introduction we try to identify various items that may be of higher risk--suitcases, backpacks, gym bags, items from flea markets, etc.”

Turns out yoga mats and bags can be high-risk items.

“People tend to go straight from home to the center/studio with rolled-up mats in hand or strapped across the back like a karmic AK-47," says Bloom. "They then enter a low-light relaxed atmosphere where other folks have their mats and bags as well.” Adding insult to injury:  “Not infrequently these mats are stored in bedrooms.”

So should you give up on the practice of yoga? Not at all, Bloom says. He just suggests you isolate items like mats in clear plastic bags or other zippered bags and inspect and dry them occasionally (perhaps using an iron). Remember, when it comes to getting rid of bed bugs, "washing is nice but it's the heat that kills bed bugs. Normally we recommend high for 30  minutes," Bloom says.

Also, he says, “do not store items on floor in studio/center and consider keeping them enclosed if possible."

The yoga centers that have been found to have infestations have been open to various remedies, including vacuuming, regular canine inspection and “mat sanitizing,” Bloom says.

Lest you think it's time to throw in the towel on your healthy lifestyle, Bloom tells us that he’s also recently treated infestations in more debaucherous locales.  

“We have treated three hookah bars, one massage-type parlor and swing club and an exclusive ‘adult activity center,’ which took bed bugs very seriously," he says.

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