Bedbugs lurk in cracks and crevices, surviving on human blood. While bedbugs typically prefer to take up in clothing, bedding, couches and other upholstered items, they are not known to carry or transmit disease. They can, however, cause allergic reactions and rashes, often leaving itchy and unsightly bites. Once bedbugs take up residence in a home or place of business, they are nearly impossible to exterminate without professional assistance.
A resurgence of bedbug infestations nationwide has led to increased attention being focused on this pest from state legislatures. 22 states, including Ohio, and one territory now have laws addressing bedbugs in locations including hotels, institutional facilities, schools, railcars and migrant labor camps.
These creatures do not have wings and aren’t able to jump or fly, but their narrow body shape and ability to thrive for months without nourishment make them ready stowaways, easily hidden within folds and seams of luggage, bags and clothing. Bedbugs also seek shelter behind wallpaper and inside bedding, box springs and furniture. These bugs that feast on people can crawl 100 feet or more in a single evening, but mostly stay within eight feet of a live host, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bed bugs aren’t just “gotten”; they are brought into a home on clothing, furniture, luggage and other accessories. The first clue of an infestation is finding unexplained itchy bites. Adult bed bugs are easily detectable with the naked eye. They are reddish-brown in color, wingless and about the size of an apple seed. If an adult bed bug has not fed recently, it is approximately 3/16” long and oval shaped. However, once a blood meal has been consumed, the bed bug blows up like a balloon, elongating to more of a torpedo shape and appearing bright red in color as it digests. Immature bed bugs appear a translucent whitish-yellow color, and are still visible to the naked eye. The first instar nymph (there are 5 nymphal instar stages), when the bed bug has just hatched from the egg, is the most difficult to see. Once a nymph feeds, it also plumps up and becomes a brilliant red color, strongly resembling a raspberry seed.
WHAT TO DO IF BED BUGS ARE SUSPECTED:
1. Contact a professional. Complete bed bug elimination requires treatment by a highly trained and licensed professional who is knowledgeable in bed bug biology, behavior and the proper use of pesticides.
2. Remove bed bugs. Any bed bug activity detected prior to professional treatment can be squashed – literally. Although this may stain surfaces, crush any live bed bugs found with a rag and remove them with a vacuum.
3. Eliminate clutter. Clutter is a bed bug’s best friend and a pest management professional’s worst enemy. An abundance of clutter provides an infinite number of hiding places and safe havens for bed bugs.
4. Do not store items under beds. Items stored underneath beds just offer additional undisturbed hiding places, protecting bed bugs from any chemical treatment efforts.
5. Launder items regularly. Heat is deadly to bed bugs, including eggs. Hot laundering can be highly effective method for dealing with any fabric items that can safely be placed in a clothes dryer on high heat.
6. Install mattress and box spring encasements. Mattress and box spring covers are not specifically designed for use with bedbugs, but most prove effective. Once beds are encased, any bugs trapped inside the cover will be unable to escape or feed, eventually dying. Also, once beds are encased, other bed bugs can’t penetrate the covers to infest the mattress or box springs.
7. Do not change where you sleep. Bed bugs are quite adept at locating potential hosts to feed on, so changing sleep locations only spreads the infestation further throughout the home. Bed bugs can survive many months, even a year or more, without feeding. So even if you move to a new residence altogether, you are at risk of further infestation.
8. Do not immediately throw items away. Although the immediate reaction when a bed bug infestation has been detected is to throw everything away, this could potentially worsen the problem. As items get carried through the home to be discarded, live bed bugs can fall off and spread throughout the house. Infested items left on the street for disposal could be picked up by a passerby, thus spreading the infestation to a new home.