Bed bugs are tiny, elusive and parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans, usually while they’re at rest or sleeping. Hiding places are box springs, bed frames, dressers and night stands, sofas, recliners, behind hung artwork, and electrical switch plates. They can live 10 months or more without food/blood and can be transported by luggage (especially foreign travel), guests, pets or wildlife, and used clothing, furniture or books.
What do bed bugs look like?
Adult bed bugs are dark, reddish-brown insects that are flattened and wingless with bands of hairs and measure roughly ¼” long (about the size of an apple seed). During their lifetime, females lay between 200 and 500 eggs (white and approximately 1/32″ long) that hatch in 6 to 17 days. Immature nymphs (babies) are very small and translucent in color when they hatch and are about the size of the ballpoint on a pen.
How do bed bug infestations start?
Bed bug infestations spread when an individual comes into contact with bed bugs and unknowingly brings them somewhere else. They travel as hitchhikers, hiding in luggage, couches, beds, pillows, or backpacks and more. Bed bugs cling to moving items like briefcases and can easily fall off, allowing them to relocate and spread. It’s also a common occurrence that bed bugs lay eggs on these items. As the host moves, they can fall off and hatch far away from where they originally came from.
The most common places that bed bugs can be found include hotel rooms, dormitories, sleep-away summer camps, used bedding and furniture, and movie theaters.
Bed bugs can travel from an infested area, into your home. For example:
- Brought home from day care programs or from school by children
- Guests bringing bed bugs into your home in their luggage or personal belongings during their visit
- Cleaning services, baby sitters, nannies or other people who frequent your home on regular basis
- Brought in on used furniture that is already infested with bed bugs
- Brought home on host from a variety of locations including public transportation, offices, movie theaters, hospitals, etc.
- Brought home from your place of work
- Picked up during business or leisure travel
You can find bed bugs at schools and office buildings when they latch on to something like a fabric bag or even clothing. In grade schools, it could be backpacks and in an office setting, it could be a laptop bag. Either way, the bed bugs need to come from a home with an active infestation. Because of the large amount of tourism in our area, bed bugs are even more rampant. The problem with spreading bed bugs is that someone may not know that they have an infestation.
How can I tell if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?
There are telltale signs of bed bug bites, but it can vary from person to person. Some may not even show visible signs of being bitten. The bites are usually found on the upper body where skin is exposed such as your neck, chest, and arms. Bed bug bites are very itchy and look like red raised welts that are similar to mosquito bites, in lines of 3-4 or more. Their bites are typically painless, so the sleeping victim is usually unaware the tiny insects are feeding on them as they sleep. Once they are fully engorged with blood, they will once again return to their hiding places where they often remain undetected. They typically reside within close range to the sleeping areas but have been shown in research to travel several feet to locate a host.
A visual inspection of the skin does not necessary confirm the presence of bed bug activity at your home. Only a professional on-site inspection can confirm a bed bug infestation.
Can cleaning companies clean out bed bugs?
Cleaning companies often provide what they call “bed bug cleaning services”. The common misconception by some homeowners who suspect bed bugs is that these companies can get rid of active bed bugs without chemicals (or a pest control professional), and can simply clean out the bed bugs with their cleanup services. It can be appealing to those who are adverse to chemicals or looking for a quick fix.
Unfortunately, cleaning companies are not equipped with professional pest control training, certifications, pesticides, and industry-grade tools to be able to handle bed bug infestations properly. The short comings of the bed bug cleaning service include vacuuming and putting linens into the dryer on high heat. While this will get rid of visible bed bugs, it still does not address the main areas where they live and breed. Another issue with cleaning companies is that they often unknowingly mishandle linens. Shaking them or flinging them onto the floor can move the bed bugs and cause the infestation to relocate or even spread throughout your home.
The approach that most professional bed bug cleaning companies take is not to get rid of bed bugs, but instead, to prepare your bedroom for professional bed bug pest control. While reducing clutter, vacuuming the room, and putting pillows and bed sheets into a dryer on high heat can help with bed bug infestations, it’s not an effective substitute for professional bed bug pest control. Unfortunately, bed bugs are not easy to get rid of and should always be left to trained pest control professionals.
How can I avoid bringing bed bugs home from a hotel?
In a survey by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 75% of pest control professionals indicated that they have encountered infestations of bed bugs in hotels and motels. The NPMA recommends the following tips for bed bug prevention when traveling:
- At hotels, pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. If you see anything suspect, notify management and change rooms/establishments immediately.
- Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs. If any pests are spotted, change rooms/ establishments immediately.
- If you do need to change rooms, be sure that you do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation. Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets. If the infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.
- Consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during the duration of your trip to ensure that bed bugs cannot take up residence there prior to departure.
- Remember: bed bugs travel by hitching rides. After your trip, inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing away. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which will kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home.
- Wash all of your clothes – even those that have not been worn – in hot water to ensure that any bed bugs that may have made it that far are not placed into your drawers/closet.
How can I tell if I have a bed bug infestation?
The most reliable way to determine if there are bed bugs in your home is by contacting a pest control professional. However, you can look for the following clues that indicate a bed bug infestation.
- Waking up with bites, welts or rashes on your upper body. Bite marks may appear in a rows and clusters.
- Dark spots or blood droplets on mattresses, pillows or bedding. These are bed bug droppings.
- Visible observation of eggs, molted insect skin, or live bed bugs. 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.
If you suspect that there are bed bugs in your home, look throughout your bedroom, primarily in the box spring, headboard, and frame of the bed. They can also infest other furniture in the home like fabric furniture, wicker furniture, or dressers. Keep in mind that bed bugs are not exclusive to beds, you can have them anywhere in your home, such as behind electrical outlets and behind hung picture frames and artwork.
Do DIY bed bug removal strategies work?
If you think you have bed bugs, do not try to get rid of them on your own. Without in-depth knowledge of bed bug biology and behavior, the proper professional tools, and entomological training, it’s more than likely that you will just push and scatter bed bugs throughout your home, rather than eliminating them. DIY tactics and store bought products may kill a small amount of bed bugs, but ultimately it will repel bed bugs, pushing them out of their hiding places. A lot of people who think they find bed bugs in their home will immediately throw away their mattress. This is a big mistake and should never be done. Bed bugs will simply find other hiding spaces in your home rather than being thrown out. Doing things on your own makes it even more challenging and time consuming for pest control professionals to eliminate bed bugs when the pests are scattered throughout different rooms and harder to find. Trying DIY tactics makes things worse in the giant majority of cases.
Do you suspect that there are bed bugs in your home? Contact Sandwich Isle Pest Solutions by giving us a call or filling out the contact form on this page to schedule a professional bed bug inspection!