Making a Comeback!
Although nearly absent for over fifty years, bed bugs are making a huge comeback in the United States. Increased international travel and immigration, along with the loss of effective insecticides, has helped this insect spread faster than any other urban insect pest. We offer the following information to help you learn how to avoid and eliminate this pest from your beds and homes.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are very tiny insects that sustain themselves by feeding on human blood. They are timid, and often hide in cracks and crevices during the day, coming out only at night to feed on their human hosts. The bites from bed bugs are usually painless, and may or may not cause itchiness or swelling, depending on the sensitivity of a person. Thus, they are often not noticed until they become prolific. Females lay their eggs by gluing them to hidden surfaces, laying several eggs each day with a total of about 200 eggs in their lifetime. There are 5 stages of growth to the nymphs, and the growth to the adult stage takes about a month and a half, although in the absence of a blood source the nymph may lay dormant for long periods. The adults can live over a year, and in the absence of human hosts they have been known to feed on birds and rodents.
How do I know whether I have bed bugs?
As stated, because of their small size and nearly painless bite, bed bugs may initially go unnoticed. However, if you notice that you or other family members are waking up with itchy welts, or you see tiny red spots on bedding, you may have a problem. Bed bugs are very small in appearance, and can be hard to see. They are wingless insects with an unusually flattened body, except when they are engorged with blood. There also are often small spots of blood on sheets or mattresses, left by the departing bug following its meal. Feeding by adults may last for around 15 minutes. Bed bugs do not make or live in nests. However, they tend to congregate in warm and inviting cracks and crevices. These areas may be marked by tiny dark spots and stains, and usually have a sweet-smelling odor. A heavy infestation is said to smell a mix of almonds, raspberries and moldy shoes.
Can bed bugs hurt humans?
Fortunately bed bugs are not known to carry any diseases or cause any long term health problems. But many people – especially children and infants – experience irritation or allergic reactions to bed bug bites. Thus they can be a source of stress for people living in infested homes or apartments.
How do bed bugs get into my home?
Bed bugs are usually introduced into a home from luggage or furniture that has become infested from another home or hotel, or by introducing used or recycled furniture or mattresses. In apartments, townhouses, and other multi-dwelling situations, it is probably more common for bed bugs to enter from a nearby infested dwelling. Once introduced, bed bugs can readily spread from one infested unit to another.
What should I do if I suspect bed bugs?
If you think you see a bed bug, try to capture it for identification, if possible. Place in a leak-proof container, preferably with a little rubbing alcohol, and show it to your pest control company to confirm its identity. Even if you cannot capture one of the insects, if you rent you should inform your property manager if you think you have a bed bug problem.
How can I get rid of bed bugs?
Eradicating bed bugs has proven very difficult, so chances are that you will not eliminate a bed bug problem by yourself. Bed bug treatment consists of a thorough inspection by a licensed and professionally trained technician. It is important to have a professional inspection of a structure to determine the hiding places of the bugs, to search all possible cracks, crevices, holes, or other hiding places in the room. Treatment is labor intensive and may take several hours. It will also probably require several visits and treatments to permanently get rid of a bed bug problem.
If you are a tenant in a multiple dwelling, your first responsibility is to report any suspected bed bug problem immediately. If one apartment is infested, adjoining units (left side, right side, above and below) should be assumed to be infested unless proven otherwise through inspection or monitoring. In one study only half of residents in a large apartment with bed bugs knew (or admitted) they had a bed bug problem.
How do I prepare my place for treatment?
The following tips will help your pest control service and YOU to get rid of bed bugs quickly.
- Be careful not to move any of your things to another home or apartment during or before the treatment. Otherwise, you could end up spreading the bed bugs to the other areas and then reinfection your newly-treated home again, when you retrieve your belongings.
- Pick up and double bag all loose items in bedrooms and other rooms to be treated. Clutter makes it more difficult for maintenance crews to inspect all parts of your apartment, and gives bed bugs more places to hide. Before returning these items, follow your pest control technician’s instructions for cleaning and inspecting to ensure you are not returning any bed bugs to the treated area.
- Clothing that may be infested should be double-bagged prior to treating the room, and properly treated before returning to the room. Thankfully, recent research shows that dry cleaning, washing in hot water, or tumble drying for 30 minutes on high will kill all stages of bed bugs.
- Even though bed bug treatments are mostly focused on bedrooms and living rooms, it’s still a good idea to put away all food in kitchen and dining areas, and cover tables, counters, etc. to protect from contamination. Although your pest control professional will be careful, and the chemicals used should pose minimal risks to people, this step will reduce your risk of unnecessary pesticide exposure.
- If it is not economical to discard your mattress and box spring, you can buy a good quality, bug-proof mattress encasement. Encasements are special sacks that fit over a mattress or box spring (usually to reduce allergens). The zippers on these encasements are designed to be tight enough to prevent even the smallest life stages of the bed bugs from escaping. And they are strong enough to prevent bed bugs from biting you through the encasement. A good encasement will trap all bed bugs in the mattress and box spring inside, and will be smooth on the outside, providing few places for bed bugs to hide. You can find different brands and reviews of mattress encasements by searching online using the term “bed bug mattress protectors”.
- Many times bed bugs are found in couches and upholstered chairs. Therefore vacuum couches, chairs and recliners thoroughly before your pest control treatment. Double-bag and discard the vacuum bags in an outdoors dumpster immediately to avoid reintroducing or spreading any bed bugs caught in the vacuum.
- Don’t forget to empty drawers in nightstands and dressers next to beds prior to treatment. This will make it easier for the pest control company to inspect and treat these furniture items. Bag and clean or inspect these items according to the directions of your pest control professional before returning the items to the treated furniture.
While freezing can kill bed bugs, temperatures must remain very low for a long time. Home freezers may not be cold enough to kill bed bugs; always use a thermometer to accurately check the temperature. Putting things outside in freezing temperatures could kill bed bugs, but there are many factors that can affect the success of this method. Bed bugs can be killed with heat, but extreme caution must be taken. Raising the indoor temperature with the thermostat or space heaters won’t do the job. Special equipment and very high temperatures are necessary for successful heat treatment. Black plastic bags in the sun might work to kill bed bugs in luggage or small items, if the contents become hot enough, as bed bugs die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F). But to
kill bed bugs with heat in a room or common area, the area must be even hotter to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding, such as outlets and wall vents. This cannot be done without special equipment.
Once established, bed bugs can be difficult to control. So it’s essential to cooperate with your pest control professional to get complete bed bug eradication. Of course, the best and easiest method to treating bed bugs is to call Hunters Services. One of our Service Technicians will professionally assess your situation, walking you through the whole process, to successful rid your home of bed bugs with as little as disruption as possible. Call us and let us help you protect your family today.
Scientific name: Cimex Lectularius
Average size: 0.1-0.2 inches
Commonly found: In mattresses and box springs, as well as wall crevices, upholstery, furniture crevices, etc.
Diet: Bed bugs feed on human blood
General characteristics and facts:
- Bed bugs can suck up to 7 times their own weight in human blood
- They can survive for over a year without feeding
- They can scuttle from one end of a bed to the other in less than 5 seconds.
- They are not known to transmit disease or be seriously harmful to humans.
- They usually feed on humans when they are deepest asleep, between 3am-6am.
- They are flat, round, and reddish-brown in color. Their appearance is often compared to that of an apple seed.
- They cannot fly or jump, but can crawl rather quickly.
- They can live for months without feeding.
- Clean homes aren’t any less likely to have bed bugs than dirty homes.
- They can be carried into homes via clothing, furniture, luggage, bedding, etc.
Other Names: Chintzes, chinches, mahogany flats, red coats, crimson ramblers