Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs

- How to identify and treat an outbreak

Summary: Bed bugs (commonly spelled "bedbugs", without the space) are, unfortunately, coming back as important pests in motels, hotels and other high-traffic places. Learn how to identify bed bugs and prevent bites from these critters.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

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How to identify bed bugs

Bed bugs are flattened, when unfed, broadly oval insects about 1/4" long (see photo right). These true bugs (Hemiptera) are reddish brown in color and lack wings even as adults. Bed bug larvae (nymphs) look like small adults and there is no pupal stage between nymphs and adults. All stages bite to obtain blood.

Call us to remove bed bugs from your home

Bed bugs move between their human host and the surroundings where they hide during the day. Hiding places include the seams and folds of mattresses, cracks and crevices of bedside furniture as well as floor moldings and other protected spaces. They can survive long periods off the host without feeding, or they may feed on an alternate warm-blooded host animal but humans are the bed bug's preferred host.

common spelling: bedbug

Bed bug (4th instar larva, unfed) - about 1/5". After feeding bed bugs become less flattened, more rounded.

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 "sickly sweet" odor which is produced by scent glands on the insects.

How does an infestation start?

Since bed bugs don't fly, and not able to walk very far on their own, these bugs rely on us to move them from one place to another. Rooms generally become infested because bed bugs are carried into the room on our belongings. The bugs can hide themselves in pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, backpacks, towels, clothing, and so forth, when transported from an infested to an uninfested room.

Bed bug bite symptoms

Bed bugs bite with piercing and sucking mouthparts, similar to mosquitoes and bites result in local swelling and irritation like a bad mosquito bite. However, unlike some other blood-feeding insects bed bugs probably are not important carriers of human disease. While digesting a meal bed bugs excrete black fecal material (digested blood) that accumulates where they hide and is characteristic of an infestation.    

Our recent history with bed bugs

Bed bugs have been associated with humans since our earliest history. Bed bugs bite while we sleep and probably started by pestering our earliest ancestors. Since World War II, and until very recently, bed bugs were kept largely in check with regular applications of insecticides like DDT and chlorpyrifos (trade name = Dursban).

We now realize that using hazardous insecticides indoors is not a good idea and many of them have been banned for this use. The practice of routinely applying broad spectrum insecticides indoors to control pests like bed bugs has largely stopped because of the concerns over toxicity. If insecticides are used indoors at all they are now low toxicity materials like inert dusts or botanical insecticides. So, while our indoor environment is safer it has given our old friend, the bed bug, a new foothold.

How to find and treat bed bugs

Hotels, motels and inns have been the first to experience the new bed bug invasion because of reduced insecticide use. Infestations are usually confined to one or a few rooms and if handled promptly rooms can be effectively cleaned and the infestation eliminated. As you might guess, however, establishments are often reluctant to admit that a bed bug outbreak is underway so sometimes the infestation grows and spreads to other rooms. You should always report bed bug bites to the management because this may be the only way they can detect a problem early.

Regular cleaning and inspection of hiding places is the best control strategy for bed bugs. Insecticidal treatment of bedding and furniture may be necessary but be very cautious when using insecticides on bedding because of the potential for prolonged exposure to toxic materials while sleeping. After thorough cleaning, bedding, bedroom furniture and any other potential hiding places should be treated by a professional exterminator service such as Manning's Pest Control in Southport NC, Wilmington NC, or Shallotte NC.

Bed Bugs - Pest Control 

Learn about Bed Bugs and Bed Bug pest control methods  

Bed Bugs are blood-suckers commonly found in motels, hostels or boarding houses where itinerant travelers stay overnight. Bed bugs are often found in buildings used to store second-hand furniture or clothing.

How do Bed Bugs get into bed? Bed bugs are transported with luggage, clothing and other articles, but not on the person. It is not possible to know if someone is a ‘bed bug carrier’.

Bed Bugs do bite ... at night. Next morning you may see dots of blood in a line on bed linen. The blood has a sickly sweet odor. Also look for dried blood deposits around cracks in the bed, bed-head, flooring, bedside furniture and mattress.

Bed bugs life cycle: From the egg, the bed bug has five nymphal stages before becoming an adult. The adults and nymphs leave their harborage area to feed every 2 to 3 days. They feed for 3 to 5 minutes at night, in the early morning hours, before returning to their harborage area, usually located within a few meters from their feeding area. Bed bugs can survive for long periods without a blood meal.

Adverse skin reactions: Some people have an adverse skin reaction to the bite of bed bugs. The bed bug injects an anti-coagulant chemical into the bloodstream of its host which prevents the blood from clotting. This allows the bed bug to suck out the blood until it is fully engorged.

NOTE: The resulting irritancy of the anti-coagulant chemical around the bite site can be severe, particularly to people with soft sensitive skin. Scratching is difficult to resist but this can cause infection of the bite area. If this is a likely problem, you should consult a doctor or chemist to obtain appropriate medication.

Pest Control for Bed Bugs

A professional pest controller should be engaged to ensure safe effective control of a bed bug infestation. Firstly, a thorough inspection of the area of infestation is carried out before proceeding with control procedures. All potential daytime harborage areas must be located and treated with an insecticide registered for this purpose.

Do NOT attempt do-it-yourself pest control using a surface spray on bed-linen or mattress. Such a use could be a DANGER to the health and safety of the occupants.

The pest management professional can use specialized equipment with a variety of insecticide formulations depending upon the circumstances. We recommend the safer synthetic pyrethroid insecticide dust or spray be used in certain locations. In addition, the entire area may require treatment using a fogging machine in order to achieve a satisfactory result.

What You Can Do: All clothing, bed linen, curtains, fabrics, hangings and the like must laundered prior to insecticidal treatment. Wrap mattresses in black plastic bag and place in the sun for several hours. Seal gaps in furniture, floor boards and cracks in wallpaper and other such areas where bed bugs can hide during the day light hours.

High standards of sanitation and hygiene, helps as an on-going preventive measure. The entire premises should be inspected regularly for signs of bed bug infestation. Prevention of a severe bed bug infestation throughout an entire building is more likely if regular attention is provided. Use a professional pest controller for periodic insecticide treatment in any commercial lodgings situation where bed bug infestations are likely to be a problem.

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