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Housing, Public Health

Local exterminator weighs in on how to determine if you have bed bugs

by Chris Mulvaney

(Plain Press, August 2014) Bed bugs are probably the oldest insect pest associated with human misery. Although they have never been associated with transmitting disease to humans, bed bugs have been a scourge since history began. Within recent years, they have returned with a vengeance, and unfortunately effective bed bug treatment is labor intensive and requires multiple inspections and treatments.
The first step is to figure out whether you have bed bugs or not.
How to Detect Bed Bugs
The only way to be sure whether you have bed bugs is to find one. Do not assume that every red mark is from a bed bug bite, or that every suspicious insect is a bed bug. Be sure that you actually have bed bugs before embarking on the process of trying to treat for them. To narrow down the process, determine whether the bites occur at night, and, if so, whether they may be from your bed or another sleeping area.
Tip from a Pro – Edwin J. “Basically you need to be diligent, you need to be a detective.” Joe J – “check cracks and crevices, check everywhere, and check everything for bed bugs and evidence of them.”
Start with inspecting the beds. Inspect the sheets and bedding for evidence of blood spots or bed bug fecal marks, especially around the edges and corners by the head of the bed. Once this is done, carefully remove the sheets and bedding. After that, inspect the beading, seams, tufts and folds on the mattress, especially around the head and foot of the bed. Lift the mattress and inspect the box spring, focusing especially around the bottom tack strip and corner guards. You may want to remove the dust cover on the bottom of the box spring and the corner guards to inspect beneath them. Check the bed frame and headboard. On wooden frames and headboards, make sure to check the cracks, crevices and screw holes.
After the bed, move on to inspecting any couches and recliners. Begin by checking around the cushions, front of the arms and the bottom, by the footrest. Flip the couch over and check underneath the arms, the seam on the top back of the couch, around the tack strip and legs. If there is a dust skirt, make sure to inspect underneath for evidence of bed bug activity.
Most bed bugs will hide in or around beds, couches and recliners – the areas where people rest or sleep for long periods of time. In most cases, if you don’t find bed bugs on the beds or couches, there probably are not any there.
Tip from a Pro: If you find an insect and cannot identify it yourself, take it into the office of a local pest control company and they should be able to ID it for you.
If you cannot find anything, but still suspect there may be bed bugs in the bed, install ClimbUp® Interceptors under the feet and check them once a week. They are a very useful way to determine whether there is bed bug activity.
“93% of bed bugs are found in, on or near the places where people sleep and rest for long periods of time.”
Editor’s Note: Chris Mulvaney works in the neighborhood for General Pest Control. His specialty is helping area residents to rid their homes of bed bug infestations.

Basic Bed Bug Facts
1. Adult bed bugs are about 1/8 inch long with reddish-brown, oval flattened bodies. The nymphs resemble the adults but are smaller and lighter in color.
2. Bed bugs feed solely on the blood of animals. The common bed bug prefers feeding on humans. In the absence of a human hose, bed bugs have been known to feed on other warm-blooded animals such as dogs, cats and birds.
3. Bed bugs feed by piercing the skin with an elongated beak. The person seldom knows they are being bitten. Bite symptoms vary from an itchy welt or localized swelling to little or no reaction. Consult with a doctor or medical provider for more information.
4. Although they can harbor pathogens in their bodies, disease transmission from bed bugs to humans is still considered highly unlikely.
5. Bed bugs do not fly or jump but can move rapidly over floors, walls, ceilings and other surfaces. If necessary they will crawl more than 100 feet to obtain a blood meal.
6. Ninety-three percent (93%) of bed bugs are found in, on, or around the areas where people sleep or rest for an extended period of time. This includes beds, couches, recliners, futons and even wheelchairs.
7. Female bed bugs lay their eggs in secluded areas, depositing up to five a day and 200-400 in a lifetime.
8. The eggs are clear to white in color, the shape of a grain of rice and the size of a pinhead. They can be hard to see without magnification. When first laid the eggs are sticky, causing them to adhere to the surface they are laid on.
9. Newly hatched nymphs are no bigger than the head of a pin. As they grow from stage to stage they shed their skin five times before reaching maturity. A blood meal is needed between each successive grown stage (called a molt).
10. Under favorable conditions with temperature in the 70 degree to 90 degree Fahrenheit range, bed bugs can complete development from egg to adult in about five weeks.
11. Nymphs can survive a few months without feeding and the adults for several months to up to a year. Infestations are therefore unlikely to diminish by leaving premises unoccupied.
12. Bed bugs are active mainly at night. During the daytime they prefer to hide close to where people sleep.
13. About three to ten minutes are required for each blood meal, during which time saliva containing an anticoagulant is injected into the host.
14. Bed bugs tend to congregate in habitual hiding places. Typically, these are marked by dark spotting and staining, and sometimes are accompanied by sweet but pungent odor. Also present will be eggs, eggshells and molted skins of maturing nymphs.

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