As children we may have heard the clever little rhyme, “Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite” but we may never have actually experienced a bed bug infestation. But now, the appearance of bed bugs is becoming increasingly common in our homes. Our society is increasingly mobile and these little bugs have the ability to travel along with us, right back to our homes and beds to make our life miserable. Additionally, within the last 10 years, consumer awareness of harmful chemicals has led to the reduction in their use against these pests.
Cimex Lectularius, more commonly known as bed bugs, are unintentionally transmitted via the use public transportation, taxis, trains, cruise ships, dormitories, cloth furniture, hotel beds, seating in theaters and any area with a human host. By far, the highest level of bed bug activity is seen in apartments and hotels because of the frequency of people and luggage coming in and out. Hotel and apartment staff work hard to reduce and eliminate the occurrence of bed bugs. However, the rate of transmission is so great that it is hard to prevent cases from happening.
Remember, the bed bug is a hitch hiker on our clothes and luggage! It is our responsibility to take steps to prevent the transmission of the bed bugs and to learn to treat infested areas without harmful chemicals.
STEPS NEEDED TO PREVENT AND TREAT BED BUGS
1) Identify the signs of bed bugs in your home environment
Bed bugs are nocturnal and typically feed in the early hours. The bed bug’s bite is not immediately felt but the feeding can last up to ten minutes. Usually bites will occur along a line of exposed skin not covered by a sheet or clothing. Most people react to the proteins of the bed bug saliva transmitted during a feeding, resulting in red welts and itching within 1 to 7 days. Repeated exposure to bites will cause the host an increasing adverse reaction.
So the first questions are: Do you experience red bites along the hair or clothing line in the morning when you get up? Do you see red droplets of dried blood on the sheets or pillow cases? Do you see black fecal spots along the stitching and corners mattresses, bed frames, headboards, behind night stands, and under the tags of the mattress?
If you believe you may have bed bugs in your home, the next step is to set a simple trap to positively identify this is your predator. These traps are designed to lure the bed bug and then trap them with a sticky pad to allow careful identification.
2) Treat the home environment with environmentally safe products
Once you have identified that you have bed bugs in your home, it is time to start treating the infested areas. You will want to reduce the means that bed bug use to crawl from floor to bed and vice versa. Begin by raising the bed and placing sticky pads under the foot of each bed post. Extensively vacuum your floors and mattress. Place a protective cover around the mattress and pillows. Tuck your sheets in to prevent them from touching the floor and remove bed skirts if you have them. Treat wall outlets with a boric acid based powder and install outlet seals under the covers. Treat floor and lower walls where needed with cedar oil pest control.
Remember vacuum cleaners are a highly effective means to start the elimination of bed bugs and their eggs. Use suction devices and nozzles to extract bed bugs resting in crevices and cracks. Clean the bed frame, cross members, base boards, head boards and all carpeted areas. Immediately after vacuuming, remove the vacuum bag and place in a sealed bag to prevent further spread of the eggs and/or actual live insects.
Bed bugs do not like high heat. Therefore, frequently wash your bedding with hot water and dry them on the high heat setting. You will need to get the temperature above 120 F for 3-5 minutes to kill the life stages of the bed bug. When pulling the sheets and bedding off the mattress, carefully tuck the bedding inwards to prevent transferring the bugs into other parts of the room. Bag the bedding and transport to your laundry facilities immediately. Do not use hampers or baskets. Place the bag directly into the washer and then remove the bag to prevent the bedbugs from spreading to the laundry room or other parts of the house.
If you have to dispose of a mattress or other infested article of furniture please properly dispose of them. Sometimes if these items are left on the curbside, other will pick them up and begin using them in their home, beginning the lifecycle again.
3) Prevention of infestation and/or re-infestation
Bed bugs love hitching rides to new cities and homes. Use these tips to reduce the chance of bringing them into your home.
At home, take precautions with traveling guests’ luggage. Bed bugs can be picked up from a plane’s luggage hold and carousels. When you are traveling spritz the outer suitcase with cedar oil or a bed bug spray. Also ask your guests to do so.
Before unpacking at a hotel, check the sheets and corners of the mattress under the sheets for signs of bedbugs. Bedbugs like these dark corners. If you find any evidence notify the front desk and request to change rooms. Never unpack a suitcase on a bed and keep your suitcase off the floor with a valet stand. Check your suitcase for signs of bed bugs and keep dirty laundry off the floor. Another great precaution is to store dirty laundry in plastic zipper bags during your stay. If you believe there are signs of bugs on or in the suitcase treat immediately and remove it from the living area. Place luggage in a large trash bag after treating for 24-48 hours. Vacuum suitcase thoroughly and dispose of the bag and vacuum bag. Store your luggage in a extra large storage bag in the garage or store room. Do not store your suitcase under the bed.
Check your shoes carefully. These are often left on the floor and are easy hideouts for bed bugs. If you are traveling with electronics or brief cases take caution where they are left. Remember bed bugs like soft nooks and crannies.
If you are traveling and find yourself in an infested room take the time to go through the steps above to prevent the spread of bed bugs. Small carry along spritzers are available for traveling and UV flashlights for identifying blood spots on bedding, carpets, and walls.