• Pamela Wilkinson

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Euuuww! Last week, I was setting up an Orkin termite account for a new property, and the fellow asked me if I had trouble with bedbugs. "Uh, no," I replied. Turns out, they are epidemic in many areas, and really, really hard to eliminate.

What do they look like? The picture at left is one I copied from the Orkin site, and doesn't it just give you the creepies? These critters can hitch a ride on luggage, clothing, briefcases, taxi upholstery and just about anything else, and get into your home and (yuck) your bed. In addition to hotels & motels, using taxis, going to the movies, sitting on the subway, or buying used furniture make it very easy for bed bugs to be introduced to your place. Sometimes one of your neighbors will get them and a bed bug will find its way to your home. If you see one, there may be hundreds more in hiding!

Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood, and while they don't typically transmit diseases, many people are allergic to them. Plus, they itch and they're nasty. So how do you prevent them?

The main way to prevent bedbugs is to be very aware of your surroundings. For example, if you are staying in a hotel, check your room for bedbugs before setting your luggage on the bed or carpet. Pull back the sheet to expose the mattress in several spots, and check the fabric, especially seams and stitching, for specks of blood, reddish-brown flecks of debris (molted skins) or the bugs themselves. Bed bugs are tiny - about the size of an apple seed. Also check around outlets, behind picture frames, and in any other cracks or crevices where bed bugs might hide. If you see anything suspicious, get out of there, and fumigate anything you have on, plus your suitcases! Bed bugs have difficulty climbing smooth surfaces, so it’s a smart idea to store luggage on a table or in the bathtub. Some hotels even offer dedicated metal frames to hold your luggage.

An infestation of bed bugs is difficult to eradicate, and the longer they are in the house, the harder it is to get rid of them. First of all, alert the property manager. Please don't leave this to become someone else's problem. While calling an exterminator will probably be necessary, there are plenty of things you can do that will prevent them from spreading throughout your home. I did some research, and the best advice I found is on a Texas A&M website, written by Michael Merchant, Ph.D., Professor and Urban Entomologist. He gives plenty of common sense suggestions, as well as providing links to other resources. Without reproducing all the information detailed in his post, here are the main points:

  • Determine which rooms are infested.

  • Don't throw your bed away.

  • Create a safe place to sleep.

  • Treat other areas in your home.

  • Select and use insecticides safely.

Kind of like head lice, even clean people with good hygiene can get bed bugs, and they cannot be ignored! With diligence and time, you can get rid of them and get them out of your house. I just hope you never have them in the first place!

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