Battling Bed Bugs Blues

“Bed bugs have been a household pest issue for more than 3,300 years, dating back to ancient Egypt. They were first brought to the United States by early colonists, where they thrived for many decades. However, by the 1950’s bed bugs had been all but eradicated in the developed world, thanks to the availability of new pest control products, coupled with the widespread use of vacuums and washing machines which helped to control the spread of infestations in living spaces.” – Pest World

Do I need to worry about getting bed bugs?

There are many different ways that you could accidentally bring bed bugs home that you may not have thought of. It all starts when someone brings the bed bugs on their person or luggage and stays at a hotel or B&B (or any establishment) and unknowingly leaves them behind. The bed bug heads off to a hiding place until it needs to eat again. By this time, the bed bug meets a new unsuspecting guest who transports it or its babies to another location. In our experience, the hotels we’ve worked with are doing their best to stay on top of this problem — but there may be some who that believe it’s not a big problem or don’t have the resources to take care of the problem completely, so never let your guard down.

We’ve also found that bed bugs can come into a home on infested used furniture. In highly infested areas of the country, bed bugs have been found in restaurants and even theaters. Sometimes, it’s as easy as visiting an infested home and sitting on the couch or having a visitor with a bed bug infestation come into your home.

What exactly is a bed bug?

Bed bugs are brown oval shaped six-legged parasitic insects, about the size of an apple seed. They only feed on blood and need to have a blood meal to grow. Female bed bugs will lay between 100 – 600 eggs in a lifetime and will lay 1-10 eggs per day. The eggs take 10 days to hatch and then about 21 days to grow from nymph to adult and start laying eggs (under ideal conditions). Bed bugs are attracted to body heat, body odor and carbon dioxide — all found when we go to bed. 

Bed bugs generally feed at night while we sleep. They get between the body and the bed and pierce the skin to find a favorable capillary for ample blood until they become engorged. However, when bed bug populations become too great, they will eat whenever the opportunity becomes available.

How can I prevent bed bugs?

Developing awareness, educating yourself and acting proactively are key in preventing bed bugs in your home. Especially, as we approach the travel and vacation time of year, anytime you stay the night you must check out the bed that you are going to sleep in.

The first thing you must do when you enter a hotel room is put your luggage in the tub until you can do an inspection. Do not lay anything on the bed until you have removed all the bedding and taken a good look for any bed bugs on the sheets or in the pillow cases. Next you will need to look at the mattress. Using a flashlight will give you the best opportunity to see the bugs. Check all the edges and folds on both sides of the mattress and remove it off the box spring, then look at the box spring both top and bottom. Look for bed bugs as described above. Their droppings look like small black dots that have soaked into the fabric. The eggs look like tiny pieces of rice that can fit on the head of pin. They are hard to see on white fabric but show up nicely on dark fabric. If you can move the headboard, move it away from the wall and look behind it, too. If any bed bugs are found, report it to the manager and get another room or go to another hotel and do it all over again.

Be careful when buying used furniture. A full inspection as described above will give you peace of mind that you are bringing clean furniture in to your home. Do not bring anything home that someone has thrown away or is sitting outside next to a building. They are most likely tossing the furniture, possibly because of infestation, and hoping someone will take it home so they don’t have to move it.

Setting up bed bug traps around your beds and couches can be an early detection system to alert you to the beginning of an infestation or after your home has been treated as an assurance to alert you if any might have gotten away. There are many different traps and lures available to the consumer, so it’s best to consult with a professional to determine your needs.

Quality bed bug covers can also be a great help. They lock bed bugs in and prevent them from hiding in folds so you can see them right away. There are many different makes, so check with a professional to ensure it provides the necessary prevention.

How do I get rid of bed bugs?

Your clean house will be the biggest help in eradicating bed bugs because they will have fewer places to hide. Bed bugs are extremely resilient to pest control measures. If caught early, consumers can get rid of bed bugs through cleaning and vacuuming, but it needs to be done very early and very often. Over the counter (OTC) chemicals are not as effective as professional chemicals but may be effective in time with diligent use and plenty of cleaning. We like to compare OTC and professional chemicals to OTC pain reliever vs prescription strength pain reliever.  Home remedies may appear to have a small effect on the bugs, but most won’t have any long-term residual effects or be very effective at all.

Cleaning and vacuuming are always key to getting control of these parasites. Wash sheets weekly and vacuum the mattress edges and box spring completely. Vacuum the carpet and edges completely. Check and clean night stands. You may have to launder all the clothes in the closet and chest of drawers with hot water and set the dryer on high heat. Dispose of the vacuum bag or empty canister every time you vacuum so they don’t crawl out later.

Many people mistakenly believe that if they find bed bugs in the bed that they are only in the bed. Don’t forget that your kids may come and sleep with you during the night and now they could have spread into two rooms instead of one. Then sometime after getting up in the morning, you go and sit on the couch to enjoy the morning news with your coffee and unwittingly infest the couch. There are many ways they can travel throughout the home in a short time.

Pest control professionals are the best avenue for success. The most effective treatments are heat and/or chemicals. Heat can be the most effective if you are properly prepared, have a clutter free home, and can be done in one treatment. This is however, usually the most expensive treatment available. Make sure the company specializes in heat treatments. Chemical treatment plans vary from company to company because of the different chemicals available. Do your homework. Find out about guarantees, methods of eradications, and length and number of treatments.  Ask the company about their experience. Check with the Better Business Bureau or other references to make an informed decision.

Do I need to treat the whole house?

One thing we see repeatedly is when customers believe that they only have bed bugs in the bed and only need to treat the bed. This is probably the biggest mistake made with bed bugs. They travel easily on your clothes. When you get up in the morning and you have them on you, they get dropped off wherever you decide to sit down, including the couch or breakfast table. In my professional opinion, it really is best to consider treating the entire house to get total control of the situation rather than skipping a room and risking infestation.

Bed bugs will disrupt your life and give you the heebie jeebies for quite a while. On the bright side, most furniture and beds can be saved. Don’t just throw them away before a professional pest control company can look at them and give you a better idea of the extent of the damage.  And please don’t buy new mattresses and furniture and bring them into an infested home before a professional confirms that you are bed bug free.

Conclusion

Although bed bugs are on the rise in southeast Idaho, with proper education and awareness you can protect yourselves from bringing this nightmare into your home. If you do end up having a bed bug problem, the sooner you attack them, the sooner they will be gone and you can have your life back. Unfortunately, they will not go away on their own. Be vigilant in protecting your home and property.

Jason Bright started his career in pest control while living in Phoenix. In 2004 he brought his experience back to the state where grew up and calls home to start Bright Pest Management LLC located in Blackfoot Idaho.

By: Jason Bright (owner)

Bright Pest Management LLC

Blackfoot, Idaho

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