Of all the things you fear finding in the home, bed bugs is probably at the top of the list. Many people are surprised to learn that bed bugs are not just some imaginary creature their parents invented for bed time. They are very real, and a very serious problem in most urban areas lately. Bed bugs are tiny insects that feed on human blood. Talk about creepy!
Bed bugs have a small reddish colored oval body about the size of an apple seed. They are big enough to be seen, if you know to look for them and where. They are notorious for nesting in mattresses, box springs, and bedding, hence the name bed bugs. However, there can also nest in furniture, carpet, or tapestries as well as bore their way into wooden floors and walls. When these little critters feed they swell up and become bright red, much like a tick might swell or a mosquito. They can live in an unoccupied area for over a year without feeding.
So how do you know if you have bed bugs?
Well there are some pretty straight forward signs of a bed bug infestation; at the top of the list are itchy bumps or welts on your skin. Bed bugs inject a numbing agent when they feed so you won’t feel the bite, but you will definitely feel the after effects. Bites are most likely to occur while you are sleeping, bed bugs can sense carbon dioxide which we expel while breathing. Also look for small blood smears on bedding, when you roll around in your sleep you will likely crush a few of the bugs that are lurking nearby. Bed bugs also leave fecal droppings in their wake, which look like tiny black dots on fabrics like sheets and bedding. Unfortunately the only sure fire way to know if you have bed bugs is to actually see one, because many other insects like fleas can leave bites that look the same.
Once you identify a bed bug, or you have suspicious due to signs and symptoms, it is important to do a thorough once over of the home or office. You will need to look high and low. Infestations can be hard to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. Look under and behind furniture, in the cracks and corners of furniture, floors and in carpeted areas. Flip over mattresses and look in the corners underneath any folds in the fabric or crevices created by quilted patterns. It is also suggested that if you do find a bed bug you refrain from giving into to urge to squash it immediately, instead capture the live bug in a zip-lock baggie and take it to a pest professional to identify.
If you are bitten by a bed bug don’t be overly concerned about your health. While the bugs do feed on blood, they are not known to spread or cause diseases. The real danger comes from scratching the bites, because you increase your risk of developing skin infections. If you do get bitten and you have a severe reaction to the bite you can see your doctor for medication to help reduce the discomfort.
How do you end up with bed bugs?
Well, first of all it has nothing to do with one’s cleanliness or lack there off. Poor housekeeping is not related to infestations in any way, so it is wrong to assume that someone has bed bugs because they are “dirty.” Five star hotels have had infestations, so have multi-million dollar homes. Anyone can have bed bug. The most common way to get bed bugs is by bringing them in unknowingly in luggage, bags, used furniture or bedding, and inside the folds and creases of clothing and shoes. They can also make their way through a shared living area like apartments by traveling through small unseen gaps found in the walls and floors. It is recommended that you never use “bug bombs” to rid your area of bed bugs, this can force them into adjacent homes or offices and in addition to creating a bed bug problem for neighbors you are just setting yourself up for a later re-infestation.
Bed bugs are extremely difficult to get rid of because they are hard to find and kill. Clearing a home or office of bed bugs can take a lot of time and effort. It is best to find them early on in the infestation; this will make it easier to get all of the bugs and eggs before they spread more widely. Regular cleaning and inspection is a must, and targeted pesticide by a professional is the only pesticide you can truly trust. Vacuuming and steaming are important too, you must also wash and dry all clothing and bedding in high heat.
Once you call in a profession there are a few things you can do to help before they arrive. If you have bed bugs wipe them up with a wet rag and crush them. Use mild soap and water on washable surfaces to remove bugs and egg. Rent a dry steamer, this will kill the bed bugs and their eggs. Once you have steamed your home vacuum thoroughly to remove any dead bugs and eggs, dispose of the vacuum waste immediately afterwards, as to not spread them though other areas. Seal the vacuum waste in a plastic bag and dispose of it outside. Before your inspection and treatment, remove clutter from the area. Clean areas where the bugs are likely to hide, and seal up items for dry cleaning.
You can prevent infestations or future infestations by following a few easy habits. Change your bedding at least twice a month. Also keep the floors free of clutter like magazines and newspapers. Check all used items before you bring them into the home, look for bugs and eggs as well as any signs of bed bug activity. Seal cracks and crevices along your floors and walls. You can also seal your mattresses in plastic, make sure it is air tight or it is pointless, or you can buy a bed bug cover for your bed.
When you travel, be sure to inquire about your hotel’s bed bug inspection routine. Inspect your room the moment you arrive, look under the sheets and along mattress edges for signs of an infestation. If you see any signs, inform the staff right way. Leave your clothing inside your luggage and store it up off of the floor. This will help minimize the chance of carrying any little critters home with you. After trips wash your clothing immediately and inspect your luggage and shoes, to be safe, vacuum out your luggage before storing it. If you won’t be traveling again for a good while you can store your luggage in a plastic bag for a year. Alliance Pest Services offers several bed bug control and elimination services to help remove and prevent bed bug infestations.