The Bedbug Rhyme

“Good-night, sleep-tight,

Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

And if they do,

Get a shoe,

And hit them ‘til they’re black and blue!”

The first two lines of this rhyme are what my parents used to say to me before tucking me in at night. I learned the longer version at a camp, and thinking it extremely clever, ingrained it into my memory. Everyone I tell it to loves it because while the first two lines are a common rhyme, the extended lines are not very well known.

I never understood the original rhyme. What bedbugs? Why did my parents feel they needed to remind me not to let them bite me? Isn’t that common sense? For years, this disconcerting bedbug-biting image irritated me because I didn’t know its purpose. When I learned the rest of the rhyme, it was a relief because it offered a simple solution to those ever-warned-about bedbugs. So after years of being worried by my parents about bedbugs, my young mind quickly embraced the advice the rhyme offered about the shoe.


De Grote, Diane. Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite! Seastar: 2002.