Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!
We’ve all heard the old bedtime rhyme, “Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” And while this rhyme has been around for hundreds of years, most modern day people had not given it any thought until recently when bed bug infestations sharply increased. In fact, according to statistics from the National Pest Management Association, bed bugs are on the rise in America, having increased 500 percent over the last three years.
Bed bugs are small, flat, wingless insects with six legs that range in color from almost white to brown. Bed bugs like to hide in bedding and mattresses and, like mosquitoes, enjoy feeding on blood from animals or people. While these pests are very small (only about a quarter inch long) they can be seen by the naked eye.
Prior to WWII, bed bugs were mostly eradicated but have now made a comeback due to global travel and restrictions on pesticide use. They are mostly acquired while traveling in and staying in places such as college dorms, hotels, nursing homes, schools and office buildings. They like to hide in small crevices and often hitch a ride home on luggage, pets, furniture, clothing, boxes and other objects.
The first sign of bed bugs may be itchy red bites on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders. These bites usually do not require treatment and luckily these pests are unable to transmit diseases. Other signs of infestation include dark spots and stains on bed sheets and mattresses and live bed bugs or eggs.
Controlling bed bugs takes time and patience. There are both chemical and non-chemical treatments available to stop the infestation, though a licensed pest management professional is usually needed. Heating infested articles or areas to at least 113 ºF for 1 hour or cooling the area below 0 ºF for at least 4 days can eliminate some infestations and mattress. Box spring encasements can be used to trap bed bugs.
Thankfully, this problem can be prevented through some simple precautions. Be sure to check any secondhand furniture for any signs of bed bug infestation and use protective covers on mattresses and box springs. When traveling, check the mattress and headboard before sleeping and avoid putting luggage on the floor when using hotel rooms. Reducing clutter in your own home is also a great way to reduce hiding places for bed bugs, and to help put the problem to rest.