We’ve all heard the horror stories about bed bugs – they invade, they take over your home and they can be difficult to get rid of! It seems like every other week we hear another story on the news about a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs are not known to spread or transmit disease, but they do pose other public health issues. The EPA attributes the rise in bed bug cases to an increase in travel, a lack of knowledge about prevention, an increased resistance to pesticides, and ineffective pest control practices. While we can’t stop people from traveling, we can provide you with information to help you identify bed bugs and some tips to help you prevent them.
WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
Bed bugs are hard to find and identify because of small size and tendency to stay hidden. Adult bed bugs have the following characteristics:
- 5-7 mm (3/16-1/4″) in length
- If they haven’t fed recently they are long and brown with a flat, oval shaped body
- If they have fed recently they are reddish brown, balloon-like in shape, and much more elongated
- They are smelly with a “musty-sweetish” odor
Young bed bugs are:
- translucent or whitish-yellow in color
- nearly invisible to the naked eye
Bed bug eggs are:
- tiny (about the size of a pinhead)
- pearl white in color
- marked by an eye spot if they are more than 5 days old
WHAT DO THEY EAT?
- Prefer to feed on humans
- Will feed on other mammals and birds if necessary
- Will travel 5-20 feet from their hiding places to feed
- Primarily nocturnal
- Can survive several months without feeding
- Females lay 1-3 eggs per day and 200-500 eggs in a lifetime
- Can survive temperatures as low as 46 degrees Fahrenheit
- Will die when body temperature reaches 113 degrees Fahrenheit
- Great hitchhikers (will travel on furniture, bedding, luggage, boxes, and clothing)
WHERE CAN YOU FIND THEM?
- In the piping, seams, and tags of mattresses and box springs
- In cracks on the bed frame and headboard
- In seams of chairs and couches
- Between couch cushions
- In folds of curtains
- In drawer joints
- In electrical receptacles and appliances
- Under loose wallpaper and wall hangings
- At the junction where walls and ceilings meet
- Behind crown molding and baseboards
- In the heads of screws
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR?
It is very important to find and control bed bugs early before they have a chance to establish their infestation. It is much less expensive to treat them early than it is once they are settled in your home. It is very easy to mistake bed bugs for carpet beetles and other pests. Check out this handy graphic that shows several “look alike” insects and how to tell them apart. When checking for bed bugs look for these telltale signs:
- Rusty or reddish colored stains on the bedding or mattresses
- Dark spots that bleeds on the fabric like a marker would
- Eggs and eggshells which are extremely small (about 1 mm)
- Pale yellow skins
- Live bed bugs
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT THEM?
Now that you know what to look for, what steps can you take to prevent bed bugs from invading your home in the first place? Check out these 12 tips to prevent bed bugs.
- Inspect any furniture or bedding, especially secondhand items, before bringing them into your home.
- Use a protective cover that encases both mattresses and box springs and make sure to check it regularly for tears and holes.
- Reduce the clutter in your home as this reduces bed bug hiding spaces.
- Vacuum frequently and dispose of the bag immediately.
- Routinely inspect the areas where your pets sleep for bed bugs.
- If using shared laundry facilities (e.g. a laundromat), transport your laundry there in a plastic bag. Make sure to dry your clothes on a high heat setting and immediately place them in a second plastic bag for transport home.
- If you live in a multifamily home (e.g. an apartment complex or condo), install door sweeps to prevent bed bugs from coming in from other units via hallways. Seal cracks and crevices around your baseboards, light sockets, etc. to prevent them from coming in from other units.
- Vacuum your suitcases after returning from travel.
- Wash your clothing in hot water and dry on high heat immediately after traveling.
- Keep your suitcase in a large plastic bag during hotel stays or when staying outside your home.
- When staying outside your home (hotels, friends/families homes, etc) thoroughly inspect the bedding and mattresses for bed bugs.
- If you suspect you have a bed bug problem, call a professional pest control company who can provide you with a thorough evaluation and a comprehensive treatment plan.