Identifying, Treating, and Preventing Bed Bug Infestations

Identifying, Treating, and Preventing Bed Bug InfestationsBed bug infestations are an increasing problem across North America. If you fear you have an infestation or have been exposed to one, you are not alone, and there are solutions. It’s important to first identify if you indeed have bed bugs, or possibly another type of parasite such as fleas. Once you confirm you have bed bugs, you might wonder how you were exposed or if they are a health risk, but most importantly, you need to know what steps you should take to get rid of them, and how you can prevent their return. With help and the proper information, you can identify and eliminate bed bugs from your home or work environment.

What do bed bug bites look like?

Although individual reactions can vary, bed bug bites often appear as raised, inflamed bumps on exposed areas of skin such as the arms, legs, or upper body. The welts may be initially confused for mosquito bites or a rash, but bed bugs bites are often found in clusters or trails created by the insect moving between feeding intervals. Other signs of infestation include blood spotting on bedding or the bed frame and mattress — small, rusty spots caused by feeding — and shed skins from molting. Bed bugs themselves usually stay hidden during the day, but adults are small, flat, flightless insects about the size of an apple seed. They are dark brown or reddish-brown in color, and may be mistaken as ticks or immature cockroaches.

How do bed bugs travel, and where do bed bugs come from?

Adult bed bugs can travel on clothing, but they most often stow away in luggage, backpacks, bedding, or used furniture. As their name suggests, bed bugs are often found in and around beds because they prefer to stay close to a food source, but they can also squeeze into crevices in dressers, along the edges of baseboards and carpets, even behind electrical outlets, and they may be found anywhere where frequent visitor turnover is common. Hotel rooms are not the only places bed bugs may transfer hosts — theaters, buses, and grocery stores may be sources of an infestation.

What are the health risks of bed bugs in my home or workplace?

Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease, but an infestation can cause other negative effects like anxiety, sleeplessness, and chronic itching. Some individuals have had allergic reactions to bed bug bites, and scratching at bites can lead to secondary infections. The risk of infection is especially dangerous to individuals with compromised immune systems. While bed bugs have been associated with cluttered or unsanitary conditions, they can thrive anywhere. Bed bugs are drawn to body heat and carbon dioxide, not dirt, and are not necessarily a sign of an unclean environment.

What can I do if I think I’ve been exposed to bed bugs?

Wash and dry your clothes on the highest heat setting as soon as you arrive home, if not before. Find a flat, non-carpeted surface where you can unpack luggage while inspecting for signs of bed bugs, and transfer your items into sealed plastic bags. Steam clean or vacuum freeze luggage if possible, and purchase a bed bug-proof mattress cover. To prevent bed bug infestations, try to store work, school, or travel items separately, and don’t store luggage under your bed. When away from home, keep your clothing and personal items inside your luggage instead of moving them into drawers or closets, and keep your bags on a luggage rack away from the walls, never open on your bed. At home, reduce clutter that bed bugs can use to hide in, and vacuum carpets regularly.

How do I get rid of bed bugs?

If you suspect you have bed bugs, contact a pest management professional right away. Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, in part because — until recently — infestations haven’t been common in the United States since World War II, and many people never learned preventative measures or how to recognize signs of infestation. Bed bugs are also hardy insects and resistant to many common pesticides. Bed bug eggs in particular are very resilient, and an infestation will persist unless all life stages have been eliminated. While working with a pest management professional, restrict contact with the area you suspect to be the source of infestation until all bed bug treatments have been completed. Attempts to treat the area yourself may result in bed bugs spreading to other areas of the home. With cooperation and careful, proper treatment, it is possible to remove bed bugs from your home or workplace.

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Bed Bugs

bed bug controlBed bugs are a growing problem throughout the United States. Since they were eradicated in the United States for nearly fifty years, many people are not sure on how to treat them and how to avoid getting them. With the increase in travel both in the country and internationally, bed bugs are spreading throughout the country. Here are five questions people ask about bed bugs.

Where Can I Catch Bed Bugs?

Many people will bring bed bugs home with them after a trip. Bed bugs will camp in a hotel room and crawl into your luggage while you are sleeping. Do not put your luggage on the floor of the hotel or on furniture. You can also bring them home from the gym, from school or anywhere where you may put your bag down and they can crawl into it. They have invaded schools and public buildings in some areas.

Do Bed Bugs Make People Sick?

While bed bugs do bite you and drink your blood, they do not transmit diseases to people. They can carry some diseases, but there are no known cases of them spreading an illness to a person. Some people can have an allergic reaction to the bed bugs. The bites can be extremely itchy.

How Do You Treat Bed Bugs?

There are a few different ways to treat bed bugs. However, bed bugs are resistant to some treatments. They also need to have the treatment applied directly on them. This can make treating bed bugs on your own tricky because they will hide in very small cracks that you may not see. You will need to wash your sheets in hot water and seal your mattress in a mattress cover designed for bed bugs.

Can I Get Rid of Bed Bugs on My Own?

While you may try to treat bed bugs on your own, it is more effective to hire a bed bug professional that has been trained in where to look for bed bugs and the best way to treat for them. They can usually treat them in just one treatment. This can give you peace of mind and the protection from these pests. The professionals have access to more effective pest control products that are safer for your family.

How Do I Find Bed Bugs?

You may notice small bites in rows as one of the signs of bed bugs. You may also see bloodstains on your sheets. You can look for the bed bugs on your mattress and box springs. They will hide in your headboard, nearby furniture and cracks in your baseboards. They are very small and can fit in areas where you do not think that they could feet.

What Steps Can I Take to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

bed bug extermination
Image courtesy of Gilles San Martin via flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)
Bed bugs can be difficult to deal with because the treatments for them work best when applied directly to the bugs, and they are excellent hiders. They will hide in cracks that you may barely notice. It takes a professional who has been trained in bed bug detection to be able to identify all the places that they may hide.

Call a Professional

The first step in treating for bed bugs is to call a bed bug exterminator who can complete the chemical treatment for you. This is important because you need to kill all stages of the bed bugs in order to end an infestation, and a professional will be able to do that effectively.

Wash Your Bedding

Take your bedding to a laundromat to wash. It is important to double bag the bedding. This will prevent the bed bugs from hiding in your car as you take bedding there. Throw the bag away when you get to the laundry mat, as it may now contain bed bugs. You may want to seal these bags in an airtight container to avoid passing the bed bugs onto someone else. Be sure to wash and dry the bedding on high heat.

Address Your Mattress and Box Spring

The first step is to vacuum your mattress and box spring. While you may be tempted to throw your bed away, you can take some simple steps to stop bed bugs from being a problem. Buy a cover for both your mattress and box spring that will trap any bed bugs that may be in your box-spring or mattress that the vacuum misses inside. They will not be able to survive. Additionally, it can serve as a protection to stop it from happening in the future.

Move Your Bed Away from the Wall

While you are working on clearing up the bed bugs, you do not want to worry about new bed bugs finding their way into your bed and onto you. You can move the bed frame away from the wall. You can treat the headboard with insecticide. You can also put the legs of your bed into bed bug traps that are designed to catch any bed bugs that may be trying to climb off the floor onto your bed. Since bed bugs cannot fly, these measures can help while you prepare for the extermination treatment. Image courtesy of Gilles San Martin via flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)

How Do Bed Bugs Enter Your Home?

bed bugsBed bugs are notorious for being difficult to get rid of. Plus, the idea of being fed on while you are asleep is definitely not an appealing one. Since bed bugs were almost completely eradicated in the United States for about forty years, many people do not understand the pest and how to avoid catching. The resurgence of the bed bug has been troubling. Although bed bugs don’t carry diseases, their bites can cause rashes and be very annoying. Here are the common ways that bed bugs enter your home and how to avoid bringing them there.

Bed Bugs Enter in Your Luggage

The most common way that people get bed bugs is by bringing them home after a business trip or vacation. They may stay in a hotel with bed bugs and not realize it. The bed bugs can easily crawl into your suitcase and catch a ride home with you. To prevent this, you will need to inspect your hotel room when you arrive. Check the bedding and behind the baseboard for signs of droppings. Additionally, be sure never to put your suitcase or purse on your bed. The luggage rack is a better option since it sits up off the floor and it will make it more difficult to bring them home. Once you are home, inspect your luggage or treat with high heat before you bring it into your home. These steps should allow you to stop an infestation before it stops.

Bring Bed Bugs Home from the Gym

Your gym is another place that you my pick up bed bugs from. If someone brings in a gym bag that has bed bugs, the bugs can leave the bag and go looking for other places to stay. They may wander into your bag. Most people do not think of their gym as a place to worry about. Be sure to keep your bag away from other people’s bags. Keep them off the carpeted floor and complete a quick check of your locker before you put your gym bag into it. This may be more difficult to prevent because there are not clear places where you can see signs of bed bugs.

Watch Out for Second Hand Furniture

Another common way to bring home bed bugs is through secondhand furniture. They may make their nests in the cracks in headboards or nightstands. They can also make a home in upholstered furniture. Bed bugs can be difficult to spot during the day if you do not have a trained eye because they are nocturnal. It is important to completely inspect the furniture before you bring it into your home. If you suspect that there may be bed bugs, you should not buy it. You do have the option of treating for bed bugs, but you can still run a risk of bringing them into your home. Learn about The Eastern Subterranean Termite and how it can destroy your home.