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Bed Bugs

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Basic Facts       Bed Bug Bites      Symptoms of a Bed Bug Infestation  
Identification      Disease and Health Risks        Hiding Places               
Finding Bed Bugs    Treatment & Control     Prevention    

Hotel Horror Stories      Bedbug Service Professionals and products 
Bed Bug Control Products and Professional Control Solutions

Bedbugs were once a common public health pest worldwide, which declined in incidence through the mid 20th century. Recently however, bed bugs have undergone a dramatic resurgence and worldwide there are reports of increasing numbers of infestations. Bed bugs are one of the great travelers of the world and are readily transported via luggage, clothing, bedding and furniture. As such, they have a worldwide distribution.
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Some Basic Facts:

  • Bed bugs are persistent.  Eradicating, exterminating or just killing an entire infestation requires persistence.
  • Bed bugs can hide in extremely small cracks and crevices making it difficult to locate breeding sites.
  • Bedbugs are rarely seen in daylight. They emerge from their hiding spots at night.
  • Bed bugs can live a year or longer without food  (blood) and thus stay in their hiding places.
  • Bed bugs can travel long distances and survive in suitcases, clothing, vehicles, aircraft, cruise ships and other modes of transportation.
  • Bed bug females lay about 300 eggs.
  • Bed bugs hatch from eggs in 10 days.

Bed Bug Bites

  • Bed bugs feed by piercing skin with an elongated beak.
  • Saliva is injected, containing an anesthetic to reduce pain, and an anticoagulant to keep blood flowing. 
  • The reaction to bed bug bites varies among individuals, from no reaction to sever skin inflammation and irritation.

The stigma attached to these parasites is influencing some hotels and other accommodations to ignore infestations or treat them without professional help. Lack of professional treatment comes with great risks,  notably the possibility of litigation.

In a landmark case a motel chain in the United States was successfully sued for [U.S.] $382,000 after guests were bitten by bedbugs [Matthias v. Accor, 2003]

Who's sleeping with you tonight?
Nite, nite, don't let the bedbugs bite!

Symptoms of a Bed Bug Infestation
Most bug bug problems are not detected until someone has been bitten.  The bite is painless. The salivary fluid injected by bed bugs typically causes the skin to become irritated and inflamed, although individuals can differ in their sensitivity. A small, hard, swollen, white welt may develop at the site of each bite. This is accompanied by severe itching that lasts for several hours to days.
A bed bug infestation can be recognized by blood stains from crushed bugs or by rusty (sometimes dark) spots of excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls. Fecal spots, eggshells, and shed skins may be found in the vicinity of their hiding places. An offensive, sweet, musty odor from their scent glands may be detected when bed bug infestations are severe.

Disease and Health Risks

Skin reactions are commonly associated with bed bugs, which result from the saliva injected during feeding. Some individuals however, do not react to their bite, whereas others note a great deal of discomfort often with loss of sleep from the persistent biting. The most commonly affected areas of the body are the arms and shoulders. Reactions to the bites may be delayed; up to 9 days before lesions appear. Common allergic reactions include the development of large wheals, often >1cm, which are accompanied by itching and inflammation. The wheals usually subside to red spots but can last for several days. Scratching may cause the welts to become infected. Bullous eruptions have been reported in association with multiple bed bug bites and anaphylaxis may occur in patients with severe allergies. In India, iron deficiency in infants has been associated with severe infestations. It has been suggested that allergens from bed bugs may be associated with asthmatic reactions.

Bed bugs have been implicated in the transmission of a wide variety of infectious agents, although their status as vectors is uncertain. It has been suggested that they might play a role in the spread of hepatitis B, however, experimental evidence does not support this.

Some individuals respond to bed bug infestations with anxiety, stress, and insomnia.

Impact of Bed Bugs on Public Health (CDC.)

Although bed bugs are not known to transmit disease, they are a pest of significant public health importance. Bed bugs fit into a category of blood-sucking ectoparasites (external parasites) similar to head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis). Bed bugs, like head lice, feed on the blood of humans but are not believed to transmit disease. Other ectoparasites, such as body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis), are known to transmit several serious diseases. Differences in the biology of similar species of pests, such as body lice and head lice (or bed bugs) can greatly impact the ability of pests to transmit disease.

Bed bugs cause a variety of negative physical health, mental health and economic consequences. Many people have mild to severe allergic reaction to the bites with effects ranging from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body reaction) (2). These bites (Photo 2) can also lead to secondary infections of the skin such as impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphanigitis (3,4). Bed bugs may also affect the mental health of people living in infested homes. Reported effects include anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions (1).

Research on the public health effects of bed bugs has been very limited over the past several decades, largely due to the noted decline in bed bug populations in the latter half of the 20th century. Now that bed bug populations are rapidly increasing, additional research is needed to determine the reasons for the resurgence, the potential for bed bugs to transmit disease and their impact on public health.

 

Hiding Places

Bed bugs can live in almost any crevice or protected location. They will usually stay close to their food source (blood) but can rapidly spread through a multiple residence building, hotel or other accommodations. The most common place to find them is the bed. Bed bugs often hide within seams, tufts, and crevices of the mattress, box spring, bed frame and headboard.

Finding Bed Bugs

Some Bed bug symptoms are not obvious to the untrained eye. A thorough inspection requires dismantling the bed and standing the components on edge. Things to look for are the bugs themselves, and the light-brown, molted skins of the nymphs. Dark spots of dried bed bug excrement are often present along mattress seams or wherever the bugs have resided. Oftentimes the gauze fabric underlying the box spring must be removed to gain access for inspection and possible treatment. Successful treatment of mattresses and box springs is difficult, however, and infested components may need to be discarded. Cracks and crevices of bed frames should be examined, especially if the frame is wood. (Bed bugs have an affinity for wood and fabric more so than metal or plastic). Headboards secured to walls should also be removed and inspected. In hotels and motels, the area behind the headboard is often the first place that the bugs become established. Bed bugs also hide among items stored under beds.

Nightstands and dressers should be emptied and examined inside and out, then tipped over to inspect the woodwork underneath. Oftentimes the bugs will be hiding in cracks, corners, and recesses.

Upholstered chairs and sofas should be checked, especially seams, tufts, skirts, and crevices beneath cushions. Sofas can be major bed bug hotspots when used for sleeping.

Other common places to find bed bugs include: along and under the edge of wall-to-wall carpeting (especially behind beds and furniture); cracks in wood molding; ceiling-wall junctures; behind wall-mounts, picture frames, switch plates and outlets; under loose wallpaper; amongst clothing stored in closets; and inside clocks, phones, televisions and smoke detectors.

The challenge is to find and treat all places where bugs and eggs may be present. Bed bugs tend to congregate in certain areas, but it is common to find an individual or some eggs scattered here and there. Persistence and a bright flashlight are requisites for success. Professional Inspectors sometimes also inject a pyrethrum-based, "flushing agent" into crevices to help reveal where bugs may be hiding. A thorough treatment of a home, hotel, or apartment may take  several hours or days.



"Kill Bedbugs Instantly !!!!!"

With all the media hype about bedbugs, some unscrupulous manufacturers are promoting products that infer an instant, almost magical solution to bedbug problems. The authors of these promotional ads must assume most of the readers are very gullible. Once you find them It does not take the intelligence of a rocket scientist to kill bed bugs. It's easy. Consider some of the following solutions: 

Simple Ways to Kill Bedbugs:

1.  Find bedbugs.  Take to judge and have the death sentence read.  Place bugs on judge's desk. Results are instant.

2. Find bedbugs.  Remove bugs to safe place. Point spray can at bugs and push button. Almost anything will do. Paint, fry pan oil coating, oven cleaner, lubricating oil, hair spray, deodorant, toilet cleaner.  The secret is to use enough that it stops the bugs from breathing. They suffocate. You do not need to purchase a magical bed bug spray to kill the bugs you find.

3. Find bedbugs.  Brush into a pail of boiling hot water. 

4. Find bedbugs:  Suck them into your vacuum cleaner.

You may notice all the solutions require one very important step. "Find bedbugs".  This is the hard part. It requires the knowledge of a well trained and experienced person to find ALL of the adult and junior bedbug stages plus hiding places where eggs have been laid. If insecticides are used, they must have a long lasting residual effect and should not be sprayed on the mattress or bedding. . (Not something you will find in the local hardware store.)  Anything less than this will give only temporary relief. They will be back.

The best solution:  Find an experienced pest management professional.
If you insist on doing it yourself be prepared for failure.


Treatment & Control
Just spraying pesticides is not the solution

Control of bed bugs is best achieved by following an integrated pest management (IPM) approach that involves multiple tactics, such as preventive measures, sanitation, and chemicals, steam or heat applied to targeted sites.

Bed bugs are challenging pests to control. They hide in many tiny places, so inspections and treatments must be thorough. In most cases, it will be prudent to enlist the services of a professional pest control firm.  (see professionals who specialize in bedbug control)

Experienced companies know where to look for bed bugs, and have an assortment of management tools at their disposal. Owners and occupants will need to assist the professional in important ways. Affording access for inspection and treatment is essential, and excess clutter should be removed. In some cases, infested mattresses and box springs will need to be discarded. Since bed bugs can disperse throughout a building, it may also be necessary to inspect adjoining rooms and apartments.

Bed bugs were treated years ago by wholesale spraying of pesticides. This practice is no longer permitted. Thoroughness is still important, but treatments today are generally more targeted and judicious. It often takes hours to properly inspect and treat a bed bug infestation, and follow-up visits are usually required.

 Infested bedding and garments will need to be bagged and laundered (120°F minimum), or discarded since these items cannot be treated with insecticides. Smaller items that cannot be laundered can sometimes be de-infested by heating. Individual items, for example, can be wrapped in black plastic bags and placed in a hot, sunny location for at least a few days (the 120°F minimum target temperature should be monitored in the centermost location with a thermometer). Bedbugs also succumb to cold temperatures below freezing, but the chilling period must be maintained for at least two weeks. Attempts to rid an entire home or apartment of bed bugs by raising or lowering the thermostat will be entirely unsuccessful. Vacuuming can be very useful for removing bugs and eggs from mattresses, carpet, walls, and other surfaces. Pay particular attention to seams, tufts and edges of mattresses and box springs, and the perimeter edge of wall-to-wall carpets. Afterward, dispose of the vacuum contents in a sealed trash bag. Steam cleaning of carpets is also helpful for killing bugs and eggs that vacuuming may have missed. Repair cracks in plaster and glue down loosened wallpaper to eliminate bed bug harborage sites. Remove and destroy wild animal roosts and bird nests when possible.

While the former measures are helpful, insecticides are important for bed bug elimination. Pest control professionals treat using a variety of low-odor sprays, dusts, and aerosols. (Baits designed to control ants and cockroaches are ineffective). Application entails treating all cracks and crevices where the bugs are discovered, or tend to hide. Eliminating bed bugs from mattresses and box springs is challenging. If there are holes or tears in the fabric, the bugs and eggs may be inside, as well as outside. There also are restrictions on how beds can be treated with pesticides. For these reasons, pest control firms often recommend that infested beds be discarded. If disposal isn't an option, encasing the mattress and box spring will be helpful if bugs are still present. (Allergy supply companies sell zippered bed encasements for dust mite prevention). Some pest control firms treat seams, tufts, and crevices of bed components, but they will not spray the mattress surface, bed sheets, blankets, or clothing. Vacuuming and brushing will further help to remove bugs and eggs from mattresses and box springs that cannot be discarded. Some pest control firms also treat beds with portable steam machines. The technique is useful, but does not kill bugs or eggs that are hidden inside the box spring or mattress.

Insecticides
Just spraying pesticides is not the solution!

Residual insecticides (usually pyrethroids) are applied as spot treatments to cracks and crevices where bed bugs are hiding. Increased penetration of the insecticide into cracks and crevices can be achieved if accumulated dirt and debris are first removed using a vacuum cleaner. Many readily available aerosol pesticide sprays will cause bed bugs to scatter making eradication more difficult. Dust formulations may be used to treat wall voids and attics. Repeat insecticide applications if bed bugs are present two weeks after the initial treatment since it is difficult to find all hiding places and hidden eggs may have hatched.

Insecticides should not be used  on bedding or linens. These items should be dry cleaned or laundered in hot water and dried using the "hot" setting.


"Bug Bombs" or total release aerosol insecticides never work for bed bugs and can be very dangerous when used.

Prevention

The mobile nature of bed bugs limits their prevention. Avoidance is especially challenging in hotels, motels, and apartments because occupants and their belongings are constantly changing. This affords many opportunities for the bugs to be introduced. Householders should be wary of acquiring secondhand beds, bedding, and furniture. At a minimum, such items should be examined closely before being brought into the home. When traveling in countries where bed bugs are prevalent, it might be prudent to examine the bed and headboard area for signs of the bugs, and elevate luggage off the floor.  Warehouses, storage facilities, trucks and railroad cars may be infested so common bed bugs can infest homes by stowing away on new furniture stored or shipped from these places. Familiarity may help to avoid infestation, or at least prompt earlier intervention by a professional.

 

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