Bed bugs – a Continuing Problem
The resurgence of bed bugs over the past 10 or more years continues to be a major problem for many homeowners and businesses. This comes after decades of being only a rare sighting. Everyone, including researchers and entomologists alike, continue to learn more each year about these elusive and challenging insects.
Facts You Need To Know About Bed bugs
What do bed bugs look like? Adults of the common bed bug are about 1/4 inch long, reddish to dark brown in color with flattened bodies. Although they cannot fly, they can run quickly. Eggs and newly hatched nymphs are pale and very tiny – the size of a pin head.
How do bed bugs spread? Why did they resurge so dramatically? They spread easily by “hitchhiking” on all types of household items, such as clothing, bedding, luggage, furniture, backpacks, and animal cages. There are several theories on why bed bugs made such a comeback including overall increases in worldwide travel and travel to underdeveloped and war-torn areas, which can have high infestation rates for bed bugs. Changes in pest management practices with an emphasis on use of baits versus residual sprays may have contributed to the rise as well.
What are signs of a bed bug infestation? A painless bite can leave red, welts that itch and occur mainly while sleeping (bed bugs feed mostly at night). Humans are preferred host but bed bugs can feed on other animals. Live bed bugs, dark brown or rusty spots (excrement), eggs and molted skins of bedbugs found on mattresses, bedding, clothing, and even walls and ceilings are indications of infestations.
What do bed bugs feed on? Do they transmit disease? Bed bugs feed only on one thing – blood! Although the amount of blood feeding may appear to make bed bugs a serious threat as disease vectors, up to this time it has never been documented that the
bed bug transmits a single human disease.
Where do bed bugs typically infest? Found most often in hotels, apartments, rooming houses, schools, private homes, homeless shelters and hostels. They also can infest hospitals, nursing homes, theaters, trains, planes, buses, cruise ships, moving vans, etc.
Where do they hide? Due to flat bodies bed bugs can hid virtually anywhere. They hide and lay eggs in mattress seams, box springs, bedding, head boards, baseboards, wall voids, picture frames, sofas, furniture, carpeting, drapes, and any other crack the width of a business card. Although they prefer to infest wood and fabrics, they have been found in electronic devices, such as alarm clocks and radios as well as ceiling smoke alarms and light switches.
How are bed bugs treated? Bed bugs are the most difficult of all pests to control and complete elimination can often take several weeks or even months. For hotels and apartments this can be an expensive process with costs sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars. Since bed bugs have made their comeback researchers and manufacturers have continually looked for new methods to treat bed bugs. All of these methods have their pros and cons but there remains no silver bullet to eliminating bed bugs. Many of the newer methods are used in conjunction with traditional pest control applications. Some of the newer methods include:
- Heat treatments (both localized and whole structure)
- Steam treatments, vacuuming, and mechanical removal
- Cold treatments including freezing with pressurized CO2
- Tent Fumigation is sometimes the best option to kill bed bugs just like termites, particularly in South Florida where tenting is more available and less costly than other parts of the Country.
- Traditional treatments with liquids, dusts, aerosols, etc. applied in cracks, crevices and voids where bed bugs hide
- Use of Various Traps and Monitors to track and confirm the presence of bed bugs
- Use of a specially trained dog to detect bed bugs
Why are bed bugs so tough to eliminate? Bed bugs remain the toughest of all pest problems for several reasons including:
- Bed bugs are difficult to detect early in an infestation due to their cryptic, secretive nature and their small, flattened bodies make it easy for them to hide. Bedbugs have painless bites that are often not noticed right away and are often misdiagnosed
- Bed bug eggs are extremely difficult to find, remove, or kill and adult female bed bugs lay eggs every day. Over several weeks 200 eggs or more can be deposited in various hiding places where they are glued to surfaces
- Bed bugs can survive long periods without feeding. Adult bed bugs, under the right conditions, can survive for a year or more without a blood meal. They may remain hidden in their protected harborages, without feeding, for months after treatment, allowing them to survive.
- Bedbugs have built up resistance to many pesticides and the residual effect against bed bugs of many of today’s pesticides has been disappointing.
Want to know more? Find out Keys to Preventing Bed Bugs in Your Home.