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Bed Bug FAQ’s
WHAT ARE BED BUGS?
Bed bugs are small, nocturnal insects that feed on blood. Despite their name, bed bugs can be found in a variety of environments outside of bedding such as furniture, walls, office buildings, college dormitories etc. Recently bed bugs have undergone a massive resurgence and are quickly becoming a worldwide problem.
WHAT DO BED BUGS LOOK LIKE?
Adults are small, brownish insects, just under a ¼” long and are relatively flat. They are nearly as wide as they are long, and oval in shape. Immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are much smaller and lighter in color. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent and are no bigger than a pinhead (1 mm)
HOW DO I IDENTIFY BED BUGS?
- Eggs are pearly white and & only 1mm in length
- First stage immature bed bugs are light colored, translucent, and only 1mm in length
- Immature bugs go through five developmental stages becoming larger and darker with each stage
- Adult bed bugs are approximately 1/4 inch in length and are reddish-brown in color
HOW DO YOU GET BED BUGS?
Bed bugs need to be introduced into an environment. They do not jump or fly but are excellent hitch-hikers and can be transported on clothing, luggage, used furniture and various other objects. Risk for bed bug exposure increases in several of the following situations:
- Purchasing or using second-hand furniture and mattresses
- Entertaining or being an overnight guest
- Staying in hotels, college dormitories, boarding schools
- Children coming home from summer camp
HOW WILL I KNOW IF HAVE BED BUGS?
The most reliable way to confirm you have bed bugs is to contact an entomologist or pest management professional and have them identify a sample collected from your home. However, there are key warning signs that you may have an infestation:
- Going to bed and waking with bites, welts or rashes. Bite marks may appear in a rows and clusters.
- Dark spotting or blood droplets on mattresses or bedding. These are waste products bed bugs excrete while digesting a blood-meal.
- Visible observation of eggs, molted insect skin, or the insect. The failure to locate an insect does not indicate they are not present. Adult bed bugs are difficult to locate and immature bed bugs can be difficult to see due to their size.
DO BED BUGS TRANSMIT DISEASE? WHAT ARE THEIR BITE SYMPTOMS?
No. Although bed bugs carry over 28 human pathogens, there has been no documented case of bed bugs transmitting disease. The medical concerns of bed bugs are typically limited to the itching and inflammation associated with their bite. The bite effects are similar to allergic reactions and can vary from itchy welts to a severe and painful rash that requires medical attention. Often, the emotional trauma associated with discovering a bed bug infestation is considerable.
HOW CAN I PREVENT AN INFESTATION?
There are several steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of infestation:
- Carefully inspect or avoid second-hand furniture, mattresses and bedding
- During hotel visits, do not place luggage on the bed or furniture until you have inspected the bedding, mattresses and headboards
- When traveling, periodically inspect your luggage and bag
- Encase your beds with bed bug proof encasements such as, Protect-A-Bed bed encasements
IF I THINK I HAVE AN INFESTATION, WHAT SHOULD AND SHOULDN’T I DO?
Upon discovering an infestation, contact a licensed pest management professional to evaluate your problem. You may want to AVOID discarding bedding and mattresses as this can spread the infestation throughout the house. Also, AVOID attempting to resolve the issue yourself as improper treatment could spread the problem throughout and increase costs to eliminate the problem.
WHY HAVE BED BUGS MADE A COME BACK?
Bed bugs were a common problem during WWII. The use of DDT insecticides nearly eradicated the insect from North America and they have not been a significant problem for nearly 50 years. Although changes in pest management practices and increased international travel may be blamed for the resurgence of bed bugs, the lack of public awareness may be the primary reason these bugs continue to spread at their current rate.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY AND RESURGENCE OF THE BED BUG?
No one knows what caused the resurgence of bed bugs in the US. Contributing factors may include:
- Worldwide increase in bed bug activity, more frequent introductions during international travel
- Changes in pest management practices & resistance to pesticides
- Lack of public awareness is perpetuating the continued dispersal of bed bugs
Bed bugs were a common problem in the United States up through the World War II era. Around this time, they were virtually eradicated from the US with the wide scale usage of pesticides, such as DDT and Marathon. During the late 1990’s, bed bugs began to re-emerge as a pest in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, along with a number of other countries. Their secretive behavior, coupled with a lack of public awareness, has enabled this insect to move very efficiently from one dwelling to another and has facilitated their rapid dispersal throughout the country.
While no one can say what caused the resurgence of bed bugs in the United States, there are a number of factors that have probably influenced the re-emergence of this difficult pest. There has been a general increase in bed bug activity on a worldwide basis over the past decade. Due to the increased prevalence of bed bugs worldwide, the frequency of encounters with bed bugs during travel is also likely to have increased resulting in a greater number of introductions into the US than in the past. Most of the early introductions appear to have been associated with travel as many of the early infestations in the late 1990’s were identified in hotel guest rooms.
It is also likely that changes in pest management practices coupled with the development of resistance to modern day pesticides has contributed to the successful re-establishment of bed bug populations in the United States. In the past, hotel guest rooms were typically treated on a regular basis with residual pesticides. As a result, bed bugs introduced during travel were likely to contact pesticide as they left the luggage and traveled to the bed. During the mid-1990’s, there was a dramatic shift in pest management practices. Routinely scheduled treatments of baseboards in hotels, motels, and apartments were replaced with targeted applications of baits for pests such as ants and cockroaches. With the absence of the residual pesticide applications, bed bugs are able to travel freely and safely from the luggage to the bed, and successfully begin an infestation. It is likely that these factors have played a role in the bed bug’s ability to become re-established in the United States.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BED BUGS?
Click here to read a good overview from Jen Reviews on what you should do if you have bed bugs.
BED BUG TREATMENTS AND REMEDIES
Click here to read a good overview of bed bug identification and treatment options from Pest Helpers.