Bed bugs have largely been thought of as being a problem of the past. The truth, however, is that bed bugs are making a strong comeback. So much so, that they are now being found even in fine hotels and fancy homes.
One of the reasons for such a strong reappearance is because of international travel. Bed bugs get into clothes and luggage and then they are brought home. You could have picked them up from your hotel room or even from your suitcase on the plane being next to a suitcase that had bed bugs in it. A bed bug does not actually live under your skin, but will simply drink a few drops of blood while you are sleeping. You cannot feel its bite, even though it is actually piercing the skin. Although some saliva will get into the bite, bed bugs are not known to pass on any diseases to humans.
The different species of bed bugs have feeding preferences. Some prefer human blood while others prefer bats and birds, and species primarily reside in their target's nests or nesting areas. If they lose their favorite host, though, they will have to find blood somewhere else. While many bed bugs hide in a mattress, some may also hide in a sofa or chair or behind wallpaper or pictures. Any corner or crevice within 100 feet of your furniture needs to be searched. As you might guess, this means that simply getting rid of an infected mattress will not totally solve the problem. Bed bug bites often cause redness and possibly some swelling. Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be given to help relieve the itching. Approximately 50% of people do not show any evidence of bed bug bites.
The little bloodsuckers are about 3/8" long and are visible to the naked eye. Amazingly, though, they are able to go a long time without any food if necessary - possibly as long as a year. When they are gorged with blood, the females will lay eggs - 200 at one time. Since their reappearance researchers have found that the new bed bugs are much more resistant to chemicals that have been in long-term use. Insecticides that are often used for roaches and similar insects do not work on bed bugs - which is another reason they are on the rise again. If you think you might have an infestation of bed bugs, call now and let us help you to quickly get rid of the problem. We know how to identify, reduce and eliminate your bed bug problem. In just a few minutes, your solution can be on the way.
Infestations of Bed Bugs are on the Increase
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are found throughout the world and are significantly increasing in numbers in North America. If you have bugs in your bed, please call us to come and take a look to see if you have been infested. Even though we do not understand fully all of the reasons behind this increase, we suspect possible contributing factors such as a reduction in the use of urban pesticides, the more extensive world travel of different cultures and resistance to pesticides. This sudden increase in bed bug infestations has resulted in anxiety among the public, increased negative exposure of the hotel industry and a need to educate public health officials and pest control professionals on safe and effective control measures.
To complicate matters, there is a small group of related blood sucking bugs in the family Cimicidae, including bat bugs and swallow bugs that can be confused with bed bugs. It is important to identify the species of bed bug because due to their different habits, proper identification determines where to direct controls to be most effective. For example, bat bugs (Cimex pilosellus) look similar to bed bugs but control efforts must involve elimination of bats from a structure to be effective.
During the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of bed bug infestations reported from homes, resort hotels, apartments, universities and cruise ships. Over time, as society becomes more experienced in recognizing bed bug infestations early and professional pest control companies gain expertise in control, bed bug infestations in communities should decline. The following is intended to assist you to prevent infestations, understand the identification of bed bugs, recognize the symptoms of bed bug bites, and learn how to get rid of bed bugs if your dwelling becomes infested.
How to Prevent Bed Bug Infestations
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are constantly being transported and dispersed in luggage, bedding and other items such as bedroom furniture. Once transported to a dwelling, bed bugs typically live in cracks and crevices in the bedroom and feed on people during the nighttime. Many individuals are worried about bringing bed bugs home during their travels. Although it is not as easy to transport bed bugs as one might expect, there are special considerations that one should follow to minimize the probability of accidentally introducing bed bugs into your home.
During travel, before you check into a hotel, check into the mattress. Carefully remove the sheets and examine the head section of the bed, look at the seams of the mattress as well as both sides of the headboard. If you see any small insects in either of these locations, they are probably bed bugs.
Bringing your favorite pillow along on your travels may increase the chances of this pillow becoming infested with bed bugs and the transport of these bed bugs back to your home. If you have a favorite pillow, make sure it is encased in a bed bug proof sealed pillowcase.
Remember not to place your luggage next to the bed during travels. Find a location as far from the head of the bed as possible and store your luggage in this location. This same principal applies to portable radios and other items that could conceal bed bugs.
If you do see bed bugs or think you have been bitten by bed bugs during your travel, it is extremely important to report this incident to the hotel management or else other unsuspecting individuals may meet the same fate.
Do not bring mattresses, bed frames or other bedroom furniture into your home unless you are first confident that bed bugs are not hiding in cracks and crevices. f you have visitors that are coming to stay with you, ask them not to bring along personal pillows and bedroom furniture. If you have any special concerns, ask them first about bed bugs to make sure they don't accidentally bring them into your home.
If you are bitten by bed bugs during your travels, whether in a hotel, private residence or on public transportation, it is not likely that you will bring these bed bugs home if you follow the steps outlined above. In many cases the itches from bites are delayed until the next day and you may incorrectly assume that you have transported bed bugs. Since bed bugs bite at night and hide by day, just entering an infested area during the day is not cause for alarm.
Recognizing Bed Bug Bites
Frequently, the first evidence of the presence of bed bugs is the sudden appearance of very itchy bites on your torso. It is important to seek medical attention if bites alone are the only evidence of bed bugs. Dermatologists may recognize skin rashes, allergies and other conditions that are not insect bites.
There are several other insects and arthropods that will produce itchy welts very similar to bed bug bites. This is because mosquitoes, fleas, lice, mites and bed bugs all inject salvia during the feeding process to thin human blood. This anti-coagulant material is largely responsible for the "itchiness" of bites. Individuals vary greatly in their skin response to different insect and arthropod saliva and over time some individuals may become either more or less affected.
How to Identify and Collect Bed Bugs
Even though bed bugs are small, about 1/5 th of an inch, they can be readily seen with the naked eye. Immature bed bugs are light yellow in color unless they have recently fed on blood and then they are darker in the middle. After a recent feeding, you can almost see the red color of blood inside. As the blood ages, it darkens and a small quantity of undigested blood is excreted onto surfaces such as bed sheets, mattresses and on other surfaces. Adults are reddish brown and they also turn darker after a blood meal. They are wingless, oval and flattened in appearance and crawl at a steady rate.
Bed bugs are active at night when they leave their daytime resting place deep inside cracks and crevices to seek out human blood. If bed bugs are seen during the day, it usually means that their hiding location has been disturbed, they have contacted a pesticide, or else they are very hungry and are desperately seeking a blood meal. Adult male and female bed bugs, as well as nymphs (young), feed on blood. By checking the bed linen in the middle of the night you have the best opportunity to find bed bugs on the move. Bed bug bites are normally two or three in a row and often blood spots are deposited on the sheeting. Any nearby crack or crevice can serve as a daytime refuge for bed bugs. Look for bed bugs under folds in mattresses, along seams and in between bedposts and bed slats. Other places to look for bed bugs during the day include behind baseboards, in nightstands, inside pillowcases and inside any piece of furniture that is located adjacent to the bed. When large numbers of bed bugs are present, they produce a distinctive pungent odor. Numerous dark fecal spots on linen or near cracks are another indication of a bed bug infestation. If only one or two bed bugs are found, it is difficult to estimate how many other bed bugs are in hiding. Large infestations of bed bugs have a tendency to disperse to other locations in the building, especially if the host person vacates their room for a period of time.
There are no simple traps available that this author is aware of that will reliably trap bed bugs. Conventional sticky traps for common insects that crawl inside rooms are usually only effective if the bed bug infestation is very large. Not only are very light infestations of bed bugs difficult to recognize, but also the elimination of all bed bugs in a room is equally difficult to measure. The lack of bed bug bites is often the best tool we have to show that control efforts have succeeded Bed bugs should be collected into small leak-proof containers of rubbing or other alcohol. Clear sticky tape is also a good way to capture individuals for later identification. Bed bug specimens should be sent to a knowledgeable expert for positive identification. There are many other small insects that could be mistaken for bed bugs and experience shows that only a small percentage of specimens sent in for identification are actually bed bugs. Dr. Richard Pollack at the Harvard School of Public Health can identify bed bugs sent in from Harvard University. Take a look at the Bed Bug Training Slides at the beginning of this web page for a series of photographs of different stages of bed bugs and bed bug evidence. There is also the image gallery at the top of this page to give you an idea of the diversity of bed bug images
Bed Bug Biology and Behavior
After feeding, a female bed bug will lay eggs in their daytime refuge of cracks and crevices. Each egg is whitish in color and flask-shaped. These eggs are visible to the human eye and can be found close to the hiding places of immature bed bugs, under seams of mattresses and in other similar places. An immature bed bug may take several months to mature to an adult and an adult bed bug can live for up to one year. During development, the young bed bug will feed frequently on the blood of humans and they can exist for many months between blood meals. This means it is not practical to starve bed bugs by staying away for short periods of time, instead this activity may serve to spread bed bugs more quickly in a facility.
Bed bugs inject saliva into the blood stream of their host to thin the blood and to prevent coagulation. It is this saliva that causes the intense itching and welts. The delay in the onset of itching gives the feeding bed bug time to escape into cracks and crevices. In some cases, the itchy bites can develop into painful welts that last several days. The good news is that this insect is not known to transmit human disease. There is considerable individual variation in the response to bed bug bites. Some individuals may respond less to the bites over time while others may increase in their reaction to bed bug bites. This makes it difficult to identify the exact date when bed bugs first appear since bites are usually the first clue that bed bugs are present.
Spiders, fleas, mites, ticks, mosquitoes or even lice can also cause itchy bites, and these pests require different control methods. There may also be cases where what appears to be a bed bug or other insect bite, is not caused by bed bugs or other pests at all. Until a knowledgeable expert positively identifies a bed bug, it is not recommended to treat a dwelling for bed bugs. The addition of pesticides in the sleeping rooms of individuals is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly.
How to Control Bed Bugs
The first step in control is to eliminate the possibility of bed bugs physically climbing over a mattress or bed to feed. Pull the bed away from shelving or the wall and coat the legs of the bed with a band of Vaseline or mineral oil with a band about 2 inches wide. Use effective means to prevent or exclude bed bugs from the sleeping area. This could include keeping a zone around the bed "bed bug-free" by careful examination and removal of bed bugs with a stiff brush and vacuum and by caulking cracks and by placing a barrier of chalk or silica aero gel around the bed posts at floor level. Double-sided carpet tape may be effective in trapping bed bugs and excluding them from sleeping areas. Clear sticky tape is a good way to capture individuals for later identification.
If residual pesticides are applied, the base of the bed legs is a good place to begin. Mattresses should not be treated with insecticides.
Rather than replacing one mattress with another that is also likely to become infested, consider encasing the mattress with a bed bug tight cover. Bed bugs inside the cover will be unable to feed and will die out.
Since freezing weather will kill bed bugs, you may be able to place suspect furniture outdoors during the winter for a period of time to eliminate an infestation. Do not bring used furniture into the home unless it can be visually inspected in side and out as bed bug free. It is important not to abandon infested furniture and mattresses without first marking them as infested with bed bugs.