Bed bugs are small, blood-sucking insects that infest homes, hotels, shelters, and other places. Anywhere that people gather can be a home for bed bugs.
Fortunately, bed bugs do not spread disease, but scratching their bites can result in secondary infections. Also, sleep loss and psychological suffering are possible.
Bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed when newly hatched and the size of an apple seed when fully grown. They vary in color from white to tan to dark red after feeding.
Anyone can get bed bugs, and there is no shame in having them. They can’t fly or jump, so they crawl into clothing, purses, backpacks, luggage and so on, and get carried to their new home. Another common way that bed bugs can be spread is by bringing used furniture into your home.
When they get there, they hide in any crack or crevice you can fit a credit card into, then they come out at night to feed. Mostly, they’re found on beds, hiding in the seams of mattresses or inside box springs, but they’ll also hide in joints in the bed frame, in the carpet, in furniture, ceilings, walls, or trim.
Bed bugs multiply rapidly. A single pregnant female can have over 31,000 descendants in 6 months. It is far better to treat the problem early.
Being bitten does not necessarily mean you have bed bugs. Many things bite people, and up to 30 percent of all people have no reaction to bed bug bites. In order to prove you have a bed bug infestation, you must find a live bed bug. Other signs of a bed bug infestation include shed skins and blood droppings.
Bed bugs can be difficult and expensive to get rid of. There are no “magic bullet” bed bug treatments. Treatments require cooperation between the resident, pest management professional or exterminator and building staff (if applicable). Units to be treated must be prepared for treatment using the recommendations of the pest management professional. When hiring a pest management professional, be sure to ask for references and to check those references. Things to avoid
There are some important things to avoid when dealing with bed bugs:
- Do not set off “bug bombs”; they cause the bed bugs to scatter.
- Do not bring in used furniture, especially used furniture found on the street.
- Do not throw away mattresses; dragging mattresses through living or common areas means the eggs can fall off and the bed bugs can crawl off and infest a new area. If you absolutely must dispose of a mattress or furniture, make sure it is wrapped in plastic while being moved.
- Do not spray insecticides yourself; they can interfere with the pest management professional’s insecticides and can poison you if they’re applied incorrectly. Only an exterminator should spray insecticide.
While it is always recommended to use a pest management professional to completely exterminate bed bugs, there are some things you can do that will help to minimize the problem:
- Cleaning and reducing clutter - While cleanliness isn’t a factor in getting bed bugs, cleaning and reducing clutter gives the bed bugs less places to hide and makes them easier to treat. Remember to dispose of all items in sealed plastic bags.
- Vacuuming - Using a HEPA filter equipped vacuum, with a crevice attachment. While a vacuum will not remove all the bed bugs or their eggs, it will cut down the population. Vacuum everywhere; walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, where the carpet joins the wall and baseboards. Both before and after vacuuming, use a flashlight to do a thorough inspection. If you find bed bugs after you vacuum, vacuum again.
- Mattress encasements - Rather than throwing away mattresses, it is more economical to encase both them and box springs in covers designed for bed bugs. It is important to remember that once you put the covers on, they need to stay on and sealed for at least a year and a half.
- Sealing cracks and crevices - Giving bed bugs less places to hide makes them easier to treat.
- Diatomaceous earth - A fine powder that is very similar to finely ground glass. If LIGHTLY applied to cracks and crevices, it causes the bed bugs to dry out and die. Use a bulb or bellows duster to apply the powder. WARNING: only use diatomaceous earth that is certified food grade or insecticide grade, the pool filter grade is poisonous.
- Heat, Steam and Alcohol - All of these work, to a limited degree, on contact. Heat (at least 140oF) and steam must be applied for 15 seconds on an area to work, a 91% solution of rubbing alcohol can be applied with a spray bottle. Remember, they only work when they touch the bed bug and have no lasting effect.
- Laundering - Wash and dry all clothing in the hottest setting possible. Items that can’t be washed can be put in the dryer on high for 15-20 minutes. Make sure that all clothing is put in a plastic bag while being transported and different plastic bags are used to bring the clothes back.
The Health Department is committed to providing the public with the best information possible to combat these pests. Presentations on bed bugs are available by request at the contact telephone numbers and e-mail link provided in the gray box above.
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