Bed Bugs

Our team uses a proprietary process to eliminate bed bugs once and for all.

Bed Bugs

No one can say for certain what caused the emergence of bed bugs in the United States. There has been an escalation of bed bug activity around the world over the past decade and increased world travel and tourism have probably contributed to the spread of bedbugs. Many new infestations since the late 1990s have been identified in hotel guest rooms. Changes in pest management practices along with resistance to modern day pesticides have also contributed to the successful re-establishment of bed bug populations in the US. In the past, hotel guest rooms were typically treated on a regular basis with residual pesticides so that bugs introduced during travel were likely to contact pesticide as they left the luggage and traveled to the bed. During the mid 1990's, routine treatments of baseboards were replaced with targeted applications of baits for pests such as ants and cockroaches. With the absence of residual pesticide applications, bed bugs were able to establish infestations. These factors have contributed to the current bed bug outbreak in the United States.

Now that bed bugs are back, they are spreading rapidly. Bed bugs are excellent hitch hikers and anyone who spends a night in an infested environment is likely to take bugs to their next destination. Other ways that bugs spread include purchase of infested furniture (rental furniture, used/second hand furniture, reconditioned mattresses etc.), the acquisition of discarded items that are infested and migration of bed bugs from one infested dwelling to another in multi-occupancy settings (apartments, college housing, medical facilities, senior communities etc.) But the most significant factor aiding the spread of bed bugs is lack of public awareness. Many people simply don't believe or realize that bed bugs exist!

Bed bugs belong to the family of insects known as Cimicidae. All members of this family of insects feed exclusively on blood which they require in order to develop and reproduce. There are a number of closely related species in this family that feed on birds, bats and other animals. However, the species most adapted to living with humans is the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, which is found world wide.

The immature bugs go through five developmental stages before reaching maturity. A blood meal is required between each stage. As the immature bed bugs develop they continue to become larger and darker until reaching adulthood. Under favorable conditions (70-90°F), bed bugs can complete development (from egg to adult) in six to eight weeks. Cool temperatures or limited access to a blood meal may extend the developmental period. Adults will typically live for just under a year. The adult females typically deposit up to 5 eggs per day, dropping them in a wide variety of locations, both on and away from the bed. An adult female may lay up to 500 eggs during her lifetime.

Adults are small, brownish insects, just under a 1/4” long and are relatively flat. They are nearly as wide as they are long, and oval in shape. Immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are much smaller and lighter in color. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent and are no bigger than a pinhead (1 mm). After feeding on a blood meal the immature bed bugs may appear bright red in color. Bed bugs are capable of moving quickly on both horizontal and vertical surfaces. The eggs are very small (approximately 1mm), whitish, and very difficult to see on most surfaces without magnification (individual eggs are about the size of a dust speck).

Bed bugs are nocturnal insects and lead a very hidden lifestyle. As a result, bed bugs are often present for weeks or even months before a single bug is ever seen by the occupants of an infested structure. They live in cracks and crevices associated with bed frames, head boards, mattresses and box springs. However they also will disperse away from the bed and can live between or beneath floorboards, carpeting, under decorative moldings, in or under furniture, behind picture frames, inside wall voids, etc. There is virtually no crack too small for this insect to occupy. It is from these secluded cracks and crevices that the bugs emerge during the nighttime hours to feed on their sleeping host.

Bed bugs differ from many other blood feeding pests such as mosquitoes, fleas, etc. in that both adult males and females, as well as all of the immature stages, feed on blood. Once they have fed they return back to their hidden resting places. In the absence of a host, bed bugs can continue to survive for many months without a blood meal. In fact it has been reported that in some cases bed bugs can survive a year or more without feeding.

Pathogens have been found in bed bugs but transmission to humans has never been documented and is considered highly unlikely. For this reason, they are not considered a serious disease threat. Their medical significance is mainly limited to itching and inflammation associated with the bite.

Not everyone reacts to bed bug bites in the same way. Some people react several days after being bitten, while others don’t react at all. Symptoms can vary significantly from a mild itchy welt to a more severe rash. The most common reactions appear as raised, reddened welts similar to a mosquito bite, often appearing in rows of 2-3 together. A single bug may withdraw its mouthparts while feeding in response to the slightest disturbance (i.e., someone moving during sleep). Typically the bug will move a short distance and then begin feeding again, resulting in several bites in a row caused by one bug. Several bugs may also line up next to each other and feed at the same time (similar to cattle at a trough), so the number of welts does not always correlate with the number of bugs doing the biting. Just a few bugs can be responsible for many welts in a single evening.

It is also important to know that the presence of bed bugs cannot be confirmed by bites alone. A doctor may examine bites and conclude that symptoms are consistent with bed bugs, but that doesn’t confirm where exposure to the bugs occurred.

Occasionally you may see evidence of a bed bug infestation without actually seeing any bed bugs. Bed bugs leave fecal stains in the areas they inhabit. These stains are actually digested blood but remember that it will not be red unless you crush a bed bug that has just recently fed. As the blood is digested it turns black and therefore the bed bug droppings usually consist of several black spots in one area. The fecal spots will not flake off if rubbed and will smear if wiped with a wet rag. The key to knowing if you have an active bed bug infestation is to produce a live sample of a bed bug. There are several ways to do this:

1. Visual inspection of sleeping and resting areas such as beds and upholstered furniture.
Carefully examine the areas beneath fitted sheets, along the edges of mattress piping, if no bugs or evidence of bugs are found, remove the mattress and continue with inspection of the box spring paying close attention to the four corners under the plastic corner guards and the on the underside of the box spring where the dust cover is stapled into the frame. Keep in mind that bed bugs can easily be missed during a visual inspection so using one or more of the other methods below is recommended if no bugs are found during a visual inspection.

Installation of interception devices or active monitors.
Installing interception devices under the legs of beds and couches is one of the most effective and economical methods to detect low level bed bug infestations that are missed during a visual inspection. Interception devices can be placed directly under or immediately adjacent to the legs of sleeping and resting areas such as beds and sofas. Bed bugs will naturally move around in an infested environment and these devices will trap them as they travel to and from beds and furniture. It is best to leave interceptors in place for up to 2-4 weeks inspecting them once every few days to once per week for activity.

It is important to remember that no one detection tool or method is ever 100% effective, so using a combination of methods is always recommended

Eliminating Infestations

The longer bed bugs exist without being detected, the greater their opportunity to disperse within the environment, making it harder to find and eliminate the population. Remember, females drop up to 5 eggs per day during their lifespan, so one or two undetected bugs can quickly lead to a serious infestation.

I Have Bed Bugs, Now What?

Contact a professional! There is little chance you can eliminate a bed bug infestation on your own. Most commercially available pesticides aren’t designed for bed bugs and while they may kill some bed bugs, they may only spread the bugs to remote areas and make the problem much more difficult to solve. Complete elimination of bed bugs requires highly trained and licensed individuals knowledgeable in bed bug biology, behavior, and the proper use of pesticides. While chemical remedies should only be handled by professionals, there are many non-chemical measures you can take to help eliminate the problem and speed up the results of your bed bug program.

Remove bed bugs: Don’t wait for a professional to kill bugs. Crush them with a rag (although this may stain surfaces) or remove them with a vacuum. Regularly inspecting and vacuuming your mattress and box spring is a very effective way to reduce large numbers of bed bugs quickly. Avoid using vacuum attachments that have brushes or bristles. Instead use the open end of the hose. As soon as you are done vacuuming, the vacuum bag should be tied shut in a trash bag and discarded outside of the home. If you have a bagless vacuum, the contents of the canister should be emptied into a trash bag and tied shut. The canister should then be washed to remove any remaining bed bugs or eggs.

Eliminate clutter: Clutter is a bed bug's best friend and a pest management professional's worst enemy. Clutter provides an infinite number of areas for bed bugs to hide and creates areas that cannot be effectively treated by your pest management professional, which can cause the complete failure of a bed bug control program. If cluttered conditions persist, your pest management professional may only be able to reduce the number of bed bugs and never completely eliminate the problem.

Install mattress and box spring encasements: Use an encasement specifically designed for bed bugs and has scientific data to support the effectiveness of the product. Once beds are encased any bugs that may be trapped within the encasement will unable to escape or feed and will eventually die. In addition, bed bugs are restricted to the surface of the encasement where they are easy to spot and remove.

Do not change where you sleep: Bed bugs have evolved over thousands of years to be very adept at locating potential hosts to feed on. Changing where you sleep is likely to promote the movement of bugs throughout the structure and make it more difficult to eliminate the infestation. Although it sounds like a grim choice, it is best to continue sleeping in the infested area until the bed bugs are eliminated.

Do not immediately throw items away: For many people, the immediate reaction to a bed bug infestation is to throw away infested items. This is unnecessary and could possibly make the problem worse. Carrying items through the home can spread bugs to uninfested areas. Discarded items are often picked up by other people (maybe even your neighbor), spreading the problem to new areas. One of the biggest misconceptions about bed bugs is that infestations are limited to the bed. For this reason, many people throw their bed(s) away believing that this will solve their problem. Unfortunately, discarding the mattress and the box spring rarely solves the problem and new beds that are purchased and brought into the home often become infested by bugs that were still present in the structure.

The time required to achieve control can vary greatly depending on the structure being treated and the extent of the infestation. In many cases two service visits may be all that is necessary to eliminate the problem. However, there are also many cases that require a greater number of visits before the problem is resolved. Factors which complicate treatment include crowded and cluttered conditions, poorly sealed baseboards, chair and/or crown moldings, window frames, door frames, paneled walls, etc. These conditions offer an environment where bugs may easily escape control efforts.

Finally, some infestations may have circumstances that make elimination very difficult if not impossible. Situations where bed bugs originate from connected structures (i.e. row homes, condominiums, etc) owned by another party require a cooperative effort to achieve elimination. One or more of the surrounding units may have well established infestations that have not been reported by the occupants

A Final Thought…

Bed bugs may in fact be the most challenging pest problem currently facing the pest control industry. Even the most experienced pest management firms will have their work cut out for them and it may be difficult to guarantee the total elimination of bed bugs from some infested environments. In most cases, drastic reduction of bed bug populations will be achieved after the initial visit. However, it is best to view bed bug control as an ongoing effort that may require numerous visits to inspect and re-treat the infested areas.


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