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“Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
Unfortunately, bed bugs have made a big resurgence in the U.S. Although their name comes from their tendency to live on or near our beds, bed bugs can be found living throughout homes, apartments, nursing homes, office buildings, retail stores and many other places people gather. They do not fly or jump, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, ceilings, and furniture.
Bed bugs are small, flat, oval, reddish brown, wingless insects that feed on the blood of humans and other mammals. Adult bed bugs are approximately 1/4 inch in length, about the size of an apple seed. A female bed bugs can lay up to five eggs at a time and five hundred during her lifetime. A bed bug can live up to 12 months without a blood meal. Since bed bugs are mostly active at night, frequent daytime sightings in a residence may indicate a heavy infestation.
Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and are easily spread by moving beds, furniture, luggage, clothes, or other possessions from one location to another. Anyone who comes into contact with bed bugs or their eggs can unknowingly carry them into their home or workplace. Infestations are not tied to unsanitary living conditions; even world-class hotels have reported bed bug problems.
Bed bugs are primarily a nuisance to humans and are not known to transmit disease. However, infestations can cause severe psychological and emotional stress. Bites can cause welts which may become infected by excessive scratching.
Check for bed bugs or eggs on the seams, tufts, or folds of furniture, mattresses, on bed frames and behind head boards. Bed bugs or eggs may also be found behind baseboards, pictures, windows, door casings, loose wall paper, drapery, cracks in plaster, behind electrical wall plates, and even in electronic devices, like televisions, phones and radios. They do typically prefer fabric, wood and paper surfaces over plastic or metal.
Usually, the first sign of a bed bug infestation is the appearance of small black or rusty spots on your mattresses and bed linens. These are bed bug droppings and blood spots.
Bed bugs feed on any bare skin exposed while sleeping. Red itchy welts are an indication of an infestation. Bed bug “bites” occur when the bed bug is actually drawing blood. It may take several days for a welt to appear from a bed bug bite. Since approximately 30% of the population has no reaction to bed bug bites, identifying a potential infestation is more difficult.
The infected person should resist the urge to scratch the bites, as this may intensify the itching and cause an infection. Some people have adverse reactions to bed bug bites and may need to seek medical assistance.
Complete elimination of a bed bug infestation may be difficult without the services of a knowledgeable licensed pest control operator. It may take numerous treatments to gain control of an infestation. Pesticides labeled for use against bed bugs are available over the counter and may provide effective control. Remember to carefully follow all directions on pesticide labels. Do-it-yourself measures used by homeowners and renters sometimes cause more problems than benefits.
Although directly spraying bed bugs with diluted rubbing alcohol can kill them, DO NOT spray alcohol on any absorbent item, such as clothing, drapery or bedding, or on any item or area that may be near an open flame. You should also never use bleach in areas you have treated with a pesticide. Bleach can convert some pesticides into more toxic forms that could result in a harmful exposure to your family.
An extensive heat treatment of your home or apartment may be necessary if numerous rooms or parts of the dwelling are infested.
Bed bugs are best treated using a combination of practices, including inspection, monitoring, reducing clutter, using physical barriers, and carefully applying pesticides if needed. This type of comprehensive pest control strategy is called “Integrated Pest Management (IPM)”. This approach includes a number of activities any homeowner or renter can do, such as:
If you believe you or a family member has become ill from a pesticide exposure, you should call your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or your local hospital emergency room. For additional information on pesticides, you can also contact the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378 or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Information Line at 1-800-CDC-INFO.
If you believe your pet has become ill from a pesticide exposure, contact your local veterinarian or call the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
To report the possible misuse of a pesticide in the State of Ohio, contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 1-800-282-1955.