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Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs – A Growing Health Threat

The news media have been reporting that the country has witnessed a considerable increase in bed bug activity during the past few years. This is because bed bugs have had an opportunity to firmly establish populations in places like office buildings, commercial properties, schools, movie theaters and anywhere people gather. In fact, some states have already seen a 40 percent increase in bed bug activity since 2010.

The effective treatment for bed bugs should start with at least a basic understanding of the biology and behavior of the pest. They are the size and color of an apple seed and are ecto-parasite (feed from the exterior of a host) that feeds solely on blood. A popular misconception is that bed bugs are only found in beds in homes. While this may be a common hiding spot for bed bugs, these pests are rapidly moving into public areas and can be found in office building furniture, retail store inventory and a variety of other areas.

Under most circumstances bed bugs will emerge from their hiding spaces during the night to locate a host (typically human) and withdraw blood in a way similar to mosquitoes. However, in public spaces bed bug behavior becomes unpredictable and they will feed whenever they can find a host. Feeding normally takes five to 10 minutes and when complete, bed bugs retreat to their hiding places and then wait another seven days before emerging to feed again. Feeding is initially painless because the insects secrete an anesthetic to numb the area.

In order for bed bugs to feed, they must travel to beds, couches or other forms of furniture to access the blood of a resting host. The Detection devices used most often exploit this behavior to help prevent furniture infestation and assist in early detection.

These simple devices intercept bed bugs as they travel to and from furniture looking for blood-meals. In many models, the legs of furniture are placed inside the interception device. The bugs climb into these devices and get trapped in a well they cannot climb out of or get stuck in the device’s glue barrier.

Outside of homes, bed bugs are most commonly found on couches and chairs, but as infestations grow in size they can begin to disperse throughout a building and infest desks, cubicle walls, file cabinets and many other locations.
Bed bugs bite at night and hide during the day. Because of this behavior they tend to hide in, and around, bedding. Since adult bed bugs can live 6-12 months infestations build slowly and last a long time if not treated. Heavily infested rooms often have a distinctive order caused by their characteristic smell of almonds or over-ripe raspberries.

Eradicating Bed Bugs

If a bed bug infestation is found, the following steps are some that can be used to eliminate it. First, repair any loose wall coverings or cracks where bed bugs can hide. Second, remove bed sheets/mattress covers and inspect and vacuum the mattress surface and seams. If soiled with bed bug droppings you should thoroughly clean the mattress. Third, wash bedding in hot water. And last, treat areas where bed bugs may hide with a low toxicity insecticide.

Mattress cleaning

Ordinary upholstery shampoo can be used to clean a mattress, and hand-held steam cleaners can be used to kill all stages of bed bugs. Be sure to follow the directions exactly and be very careful not to get padding inside the mattress wet. There is no need to discard a bed bug-soiled mattress if it can be cleaned.

Treat hiding places

A number of bed bug sprays and insecticidal dusts can be safely used to treat hiding places. First, clean under and around bedroom furniture especially areas that seldom get cleaned. The, apply a very light application to mattress seams, bed frame, crevices, and any cracks that cannot be repaired (caulk baseboard cracks). Be sure to follow label instructions carefully when applying any insecticide to, or around, bedding.

Botanical (plant-based) dusts

There are several natural dust and wettable powder insecticides that are safe enough to use on, and around, bedding to control bed bugs. Most can be used in homes, offices, hotels, motels, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and day care centers. Always check the product label because instructions can and do change.