May 27, 2010

Bedbugs: To spray or not to spray?

ahimsa, bedbugs, buddhismJeff Watt asks, "What's Tricycle's view on killing bugs in light of New York City's bedbug infestation? It's a question you should ask your readers."

Since Jeff's starting to appear on this blog pretty frequently, I'll stop telling you that he's the director and chief curator at Himalayan Art Resources. But what I will tell you is that he has a very good reason for asking this question: He's battling bedbugs and wants to know what everyone thinks about pulling out all the stops to get rid of them. I've never wielded a can of Raid (in college I did buy Roach Motels once, before I found boric acid) but I must admit, I wonder myself every time I swat a mosquito or kill a cockroach whether I'm accruing negative karma. I usually swat and squish nonetheless. But decide for yourself after reading about Jeff's dilemma here.

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BB Thapa's picture

thank you, phoenix, for seeing more of the big picture and for being more truly and wholly open.

as for monica's tree-hugging "it doesn't kill them" crap, let me finish that sentence for you- it doesn't kill them, but rather it sends them in mass exile to your neighbors- either next door, upstairs, and/or downstairs. i'm sure you'll accrue great spiritual merit for that! what a thoughtful and generous neighbor, to share your bed bug infestation like that!

drop the new-age hippie jargon and KILL them! and re-read phoenix's post for a truer, deeper, more "buddhist" understanding....

Lynn Henderson's picture

Wonderful comments & suggestions. I am normal after all! I'm glad you elaborated on your 1st comment Mumon. Had me wondering about you for a minute there!

John Sorensen's picture

Well, I'm a profession systematic entomologist who works taxonomically on a related insect group, so I'll comment. Also, I've a vegetarian zen buddhist who's taken the no kill vow, which conflicts a bit. Bedbugs do not harbor disease. If (when!) the population builds and you can tolerate them you won't be harmed other than some local site ... See Moreitching. If you're unfortunate and are the type of person who is very sensitive to bedbugs, you'll be in for unending welts and perhaps allergic reactions (you need to see a physician for details). Bedbugs live near the mattress, but also everywhere like under carpets, behind baseboards, in furniture, clothing. They hide in crevices and behind things everywhere. Once you get them it is HELL to get rid of them without all out war on a continued front. It is very, very hard to rid youself of them without PROFESSIONAL (exterminator) services, so I'd strongly consider this costly opinion if you want them gone for good. The decision to kill or not is your alone, no one can make it for you, but as a buddhist you must take it seriously (see Harvey Daiho Hilberts facebook notes on the killing vow). I, myself, would get rid of them, as I'm very, very sure my wife would rightfully insist.

Monica's picture

Neem oil, people, neem oil. Comes from a tree in India. You can buy it in a tincture bottle in the natural/facial/homeopathic medicine section of your Whole Foods or local organic coop. It doesn't kill them, but it does make them want to move out on their own. Dilute in water. Spray prodigiously on your mattress, bedding, and other fabrics for a week or two and viola! No more bed bugs. Smells mildly like juniper. Perfectly safe for people (often used in beauty products and ingested) and, other than inducing a forcible exile, not even harmful to the bugs.

David P's picture

That's an idiotic question. Does this man also live with cockroaches running all over his counters?

Don's picture

Rebecca hit the nail on the head. There are mattresses at Bed, Bath & Beyond that are resistant to Bed Bugs. Horrible situation. Perhaps this inconvenience is karma playing out and when they're removed the karmic influence will have been satisfied?

Marko's picture

The Zen center where I practice had a bad infestation a couple of years ago. They sprayed. I think Rebecca's analogy to viruses is right on.

For the record, though, bedbugs don't carry diseases. If you scratch the bites, they can get infected, but bed bug bites themselves are not harmful. Ticks and mosquitoes are way worse.

phoenix's picture

Consider the suffering you are preventing by getting rid of them. They won't breed and cause further suffering, spread disease, cause fear and anxiety even in others who aren't infested, etc.. Of course there's negative karma for killing (particularly if one does it in a careless manner with heavy toxins), but is it not possible that there might be some good karmic results as well?

melanie's picture

KILL AWAY, I'll take the bad karma.
I'm on an extended stay in italy, and the hills are FULL of ticks. They are gross. Am i supposed to let them bite me and my dog? Forget that. I am all for living and finding a place in our environment. I choose not to eat meat, and i used to remove even scorpions (after about the 7th i just went for quick elimination, 1 female can have 14 scorplings), i do still remove house centipedes and if i have a repeat offender then one can't say its not been forwarned. I do try to watch where i step and i dont litter.
But honest creeping bloodsuckers in the night, not of the sexy vamp type...dead..dead..dead.

Mumon's picture

To elaborate slightly, the bedbugs exist because we're creating an environment for them to flourish. They are more or less parasitic to humans, and I think it's what the Catholics would call excessive scrupulosity (a form of pride, or in Buddhist terms, selfishness or spiritual materialism) to want to cultivate bedbugs (and lice, etc.) because they're distantly related to us.

Mumon's picture

Spray. And create an environment where they can't evolve to tolerate the poison.

And immunize.

Next question.

Rebecca's picture

Honestly, I hardly ever kill bugs. I'll take the time and squeals necessary to move it outside. But a bedbug... I'd have no problem exterminating. Feeling bad about killing a bedbug would be like feeling bad for killing the flu viruses inside your body when you are sick. Living in Brooklyn, I've had friends who have battled them time & again, and all I can say is, I'm sorry man. You will conquer! Hang in there.