We have all seen all the reports on the news, in the paper and talked about the rising number of bed bug cases throughout the country. Bed Bugs have certainly made a come back in the last few decades. There are several reasons for this resurgence. The first reason is for a rise in infestation is the removal of DDT as a pest control deterrent. DDT was found to be a carcinogenic and was banned by the Federal Government. The second reason is more international travel. Although bed bugs had almost been eradicated in the US, their infestation was still prevalent in other parts of the world. With more international travel and the absence of DDT as a pest control option, bed bugs made their triumphant return to the US. Misinformed people believed that this pest is brought on by being unclean. This couldn’t be more incorrect. Cleanliness has nothing to do with an infestation, bed bugs do not like dirt, they like humans. Another interesting fact about bed bugs is unlike mosquitoes, bed bugs do not transfer disease. Bed bugs can also live dormant up to a year without a human host.
So how do you protect yourself against an infestation? The first thing to do is to know where bed bugs are found. Bed bugs are nocturnal so typically come out while we are sleeping and become dormant during the day in most cases. They hide under the mattress, under the bed tag on your bed, inside your electronics, inside your picture frames, on top of door jams, in piles of clothes, and behind the head board of beds. This is just a short list of places they hide. Bed bugs can be found in other areas too. The Commonwealth of Virginia came out with things to do while traveling:
One of the most common ways of encountering bed bugs is during travel. Whether traveling in the United States or internationally, there are hundreds of places where your luggage might come in contact with bed bugs. Bed bugs might be in your hotel room, in the trunk of the taxi, in the luggage compartment of the airplane, or in the baggage
handling facility at the airport. While you may not be able to control your bag’s travel experience, you can inspect your hotel room before your sleep there, and you can inspect your luggage prior to bringing it into your home. Inspecting your hotel room for bed bugs is very important for protecting yourself against bed bug bites as well as preventing bed bugs from infesting your bag. Hotel infestations are typically focused near the bed, so a quick inspection of the mattress and head board is generally enough for you to determine if bed bugs are present. Before opening your suitcase:
Hotel room inspection:
- Pull back all of the bedding at the head of the bed near the head board to look for bed bugs or their fecal stains on the mattress (usually several black spots in a group)
- Check the underside of the mattress tag
- Check the seams of the mattress and the boxsprings
- If possible remove the head board from the wall and inspect the back of it, particularly the holes for set-in screws and the plate that allows the head board to hang from the wall.
- If bed bug evidence is found, report it to the management and ask for another room.
To protect your luggage:
- Do not place your suitcase on the spare bed
- Inspect the luggage stand (where the straps are attached to the metal bars) and place your bag on the stand away from the wall.
- Keep your clothing in your bag, do not unpack and place your belongings in drawers
- Using a flashlight, give a quick check to the closet for bed bug evidence before hanging clothes
- Place your shoes in an open area, not under the bed or in the closet
- Upon returning home, unpack your luggage immediately in some location other than the bed room (bathroom, garage, mud room, foyer etc.). Launder all clothing.
- Using a flashlight, inspect your bag for bed bugs.
- If you have reason to believe that your bag did encounter bed bugs, place your suitcase in a plastic bag. If the weather is warm, the bag with the suitcase can be put out in the hot sun or in the hot car for a day.
- Alternatively, a fumigant strip (NoPest® strip) can be put inside the bag to chemically treat the suitcase. You can also purchase a collapsible heat chamber designed for heat treating luggage (PackTite Portable Bed bug Killing Unit™).
- Although it is not always practical, using a soft bag like a duffel style bag or gym bag when traveling will allow you to put the bag in the dryer when you get home.
By far the most common method of developing a bed bug infestation is by bringing used furniture into your home. Used furniture comes in many forms, and while picking up a nice looking mattress sitting next to the dumpster may be an obvious risk, storing your son’s furniture when he moves home from college may not be so obvious. Bed bugs can infest many items. We do not allow folks to dispose of furniture items at our compactors to help deter the spread of bed bugs.
To protect yourself:
- Never take any furniture from a dumpster no matter how good it looks. The better it looks the more likely it is to be infested with bed bugs.
- Do not purchase refurbished mattresses or couches.
- Do not purchase furniture at a garage sale or antique store without carefully inspecting it first.
- Never store anyone’s furniture in your home.
- Do not purchase used books without first inspecting them.
- If you purchase a new mattress (or any piece of furniture), do not have it delivered to your home. Often the same trucks that deliver new mattresses, also take the old (potentially infested) mattresses away. So your new mattress might pick up bed bugs on the truck.
- If you are helping a friend move, or transporting other people’s belonging for any reason, be sure to inspect your vehicle once the belongings have been removed. While bed bugs do not typically survive the heat of a car during the warmer months, the car is an excellent bed bug habitat during the cooler weather.
So what do you do if you find bed bugs in your home? Number one thing is do not freak out. If you are living in an apartment home, report to your management office immediately. If you can, trap one of the insects in a plastic bag so that the licensed professional can determine what insect they need to treat. You should also try to recall where you found or saw the insect. Do not try home remedies or pesticides in your apartment. This can further the infestation into other people’s home and make it more difficult to treat. Extermination of bed infestation needs to be done by a licensed professional. Typically, most licensed professionals use several methods at one time when treating bed bugs. This method has been found to be the best way to eradicate the problem. Those three steps usually involve a neurotoxin, heat (typically steam above 117 degrees) and crushed shell solution that is put in the walls. They also typically use a specific type of mattress cover on the bed and box spring that had the activity. That mattress cover should be kept on the bed for the life of the mattress/box spring. Exterminating bed bugs at the beginning stages of infestation is much easier to treat and eradicate than waiting until the problem has gotten really out of hand.
There are signs that you might have a bed bug issue. If you notice brown or red spots on your sheets, this could possible be from bites or fecal matter left behind from the insect. If you find insect bites on you in the morning after you wake up, there is a chance you might have bed bugs. They typically bite in areas that are softer parts of your skin such as the stomach, under part of your arms, thighs, and face/neck. In most cases, it will be a series of three bites in a row. For the most part, the bites will be similar to a mosquito bite but some folks have bruised from it. Obviously seeing the bugs in your home is an obvious indicator.
There are a lot of myths out there about this insect and a lot of paranoia. Being aware of how they travel, common places to pick them up and what to do if you find them is the upmost important thing. We will all know people in the next 10 years that has been effected by bed bugs. We can protect ourselves by being diligent.