BED BUGS – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW – Article by Laurie Jo Jensen, Entomologist


Article by Laurie Jo Jensen, Entomologist

Bed Bugs were once thought to be as imaginary as the Easter Bunny. “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” was a nonsense rhyme, But it’s not nonsense if you have experienced Bed Bugs, and many people have had them. What used to be thought of as a big-city or slum problem has become a huge issue over the last several years. Now homes, schools, hotels, and cruise ships are swarming with these parasites.

This insect is not going away any time soon. The National Pest Management Association reports that Bed Bug calls have increased by 81% since 2000. According to a recent poll, 14% of Cincinnati residents reported that they were infested.

Bed Bugs are blood-sucking ectoparasites that evolved with humans through the centuries. As man moved into caves for shelter, Bat Bugs (living on..guess what.bats) changed preferred hosts and the rest, as they say, is history.

Up until around 1940, bed bugs were a fairly common problem. Both home and commercially made remedies were used to battle this pest, with a margin of success. But the advent of DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbon chemicals virtually wiped out the Bed Bugs.

How did these bugs become an issue again? Experts say that a combination of factors allowed them to make a comeback. International travel and commerce have allowed Bed Bugs to hitchhike on luggage, bedding, clothes, and furnishings. Additionally, the banning of DDT and similar products in the 60’s took away many materials that were useful against this pest.

Knowing their biology is useful in battling these bugs. The adult insects are reddish to dark red/brown in color and are the size of a small apple seed, They are capable of running about as fast as a cockroach and can travel 30-50 feet if they have to in order to get their weekly blood meal. They do not hop or fly. Bed Bugs can live for up to a year without a blood meal, and can survive some fairly wide temperature extremes. When man is not available, they will feed on pets such as dogs, cats, and even birds.

All life stages, from nymph to adult, drink blood. They prefer to hide close to their host, favoring mattresses and box springs. Eggs are glued to fabric or furnishings, and a gravid (pregnant) female can end up spawning an infestation of over 3,000 bugs in a couple of months, under the right conditions.

The only good news is that there is no scientific evidence that links Bed Bugs to the spread of disease. It is imperative that anyone who suspects an infestation to call a PMP (Pest Management Professional) to do an inspection. Do not try to treat for Bed Bugs yourself. Over the counter sprays only excite and scatter the bugs, spreading them to other areas of your home, making them more difficult to find for the PMP.

What can a person do to keep from becoming infested? Never bring used items, especially furniture, into your home. If you insist on going to thrift stores or garage sales, wash and dry the clothing before bringing it in your home. Furniture should be treated by an expert with either steam or insecticide. Better yet, never bring any used upholstered item home. It just isn’t worth it. Treatment for bedbugs is time-consuming and can make a dent in your wallet. Is that old mattress really worth it?

When you get to a hotel room, check the headboard and box springs for signs of bugs. If you see anything, call the front desk and ask for a new room on a different floor. One infested room doesn’t mean the place is overrun, but get some distance. Trade suitcases for fabric or duffel bags that you can wash when you get home. Store luggage in the basement or attic, or in sealed large trash bags, not under the bed or in a closet. When in a hotel, store your suitcase in the bathroom under the vanity, as far away from the bed as possible.

If you suspect an infestation, go out and buy bedbug-proof covers for your box spring and mattress. They’ll trap bugs or eggs. So if you’re throwing out your mattress, stragglers won’t fall onto your couch on their way out the door. Then, call your Pest Management Professional. Find a company that has written Bed Bug protocol with experienced inspectors. And do not shop price! Cheap, ineffective treatment will just prolong your problem. Usually at least two treatments will be required. And finally, do not stop sleeping in your bed.  Bed Bugs are attracted to body heat and CO2, not filth or food. If you move to another room, they WILL find you.– For more information about The Termite Guy’s services, click here


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