Parasites feed off of others. In order to survive, they find their way to their ideal host environment and start feeding. Examples of parasite are ticks, fleas and mosquitos. If you have a dog or a cat, you know how harmful these three nuisances can be. As annoying as these little vampires are, the Cimex lectularius or better known as bed bugs, have become a problem in North America. Fifteen major U.S. cities are experiencing a growing rate of bed bugs and eradicating them is becoming a difficult task. The top five North American cities are Manchester, New Hampshire; Bloomington, Indiana; Toronto, Canada; New York City and Columbus, Ohio is at number 1.
Bed bugs are reddish brown, flat oval shaped and are difficult to see with the naked eye. Bed bugs like to hide in the cracks and crevices near beds or in mattresses, box springs, headboards and bedframes.
History and Myths
The phrase, "don't let the bed bugs bite" originated during the 16th century when farmers would sleep on straw filled mattresses. These mattresses formed mildew and became homes to rats, mice and bed bugs. Unfortunately, this phrase is all too real as bed bugs are spreading across North America. Detecting bed bugs is difficult as they hide in the smallest cracks and only come out at night. As this problem grows, so does its awareness. What follows are some helpful hints for preventing bed bugs as well as some startling facts about this pandemic.
A common misconception is that bed bugs are attracted to unsanitary conditions. This is untrue as even the cleanest stores, hotels and homes are experiencing high levels of infestation. However, transporting used furniture and mattresses is the fastest way of spreading them.
How to Prevent Bed Bugs
Some simple precautions can help keep bed bugs from entering your home. Finding bed bugs in your home is not a result of poor hygiene. These parasites hitch rides from hotels and luggage onto your clothes and infest your home. Following these steps, you can help prevent a problem from ever occurring.
- Do Not Buy Used Furniture - especially bedding and mattresses
- Bed bugs love to hide in the seams of mattresses
- Cover mattresses and box springs with a plastic cover to prevent bed bugs from invading or escaping
- Inspect bedding and crevices of the headboard and bedframe
- Vacuum your bed, the headboard, frames and seams of the mattress and box spring
- When traveling, use a furniture rack to place luggage on
- Heat kills bed bugs
- Leave luggage sitting in the sun for a few hours
- Wash all your clothes in the hot cycle of your washer once you arrive home
Bed bugs multiply quickly and feed off of human blood. The female bed bug lays 5 eggs every day and can produce 500 in her lifetime.
Steve Hawkins (president and CEO of 5 Star Environments) uses a German shepherd to help find potential bed bugs. Detecting bed bugs with dogs is not 100% reliable, according to expert dog trainers.
Signs of Possible Infestation
Sometimes with all the preventions you may take, an infestation still occurs. The disadvantage against bed bugs is that by the time you notice them, it's already too late and an infestation has occurred. Here are some signs to look out for if you suspect bed bugs in your home.
- Waking up with red, itchy spots
- Finding black spots on the mattress or bedding. These black spots are fecal excrement left from the bed bugs
- You may notice red spots on the mattress- as the bed bugs grow in size from feeding, they can be crushed when you roll over in your sleep
- Finding exoskeletons or eggs along the seams of pillows, cushions and mattress seams
- A sickly sweet aroma permeates in heavily infested areas
- If you suspect an infestation, immediately contact your local Pest Management Professionals
A Growing Pandemic
As whimsical as "bed bugs" may sound, they are becoming a major problem in North America and other parts of the world. The rate of infestation is growing and pest management professionals claim that bed bugs are among the hardest to get rid of. Here are some interesting and alarming facts about bedbugs.
- In New York City about 40% of bed bug infestations occur in commercial business such as hotels, clothing stores and theaters
- 95% of pest control companies have encountered bed bug infestations
- Bed bugs were eradicated after World War II during the 1940's with the use of DDT
- DDT was an effective solution to bed bugs but has since been banned due to its harmful and toxic effect to the environment
- Due to bans on toxic yet effective pesticides, less potent pesticides are being used with little effect to bed bugs
- The current infestations of bed bugs are believed to have arrived from Asia and Africa through shipments of furniture
- Increased travel is spreading bed bugs through luggage
- Bed bugs can live from 6 months to a year without feeding
- Bed bug eggs are pesticide resistant
Hopefully these tips will help you prevent bed bugs from spreading. After an infestation occurs and is dealt with, prevention is very important. Controlling bed bugs is a difficult task. Buying used mattresses and furniture is highly discouraged as this problem spreads. By following these steps, you can help prevent the spread of bed bugs.
Apart from hiding in mattresses and bedroom furniture, bed bugs can also hide in carpets, curtains, wall crevices, rugs and closets. Although bed bugs bite, they do not carry any infectious diseases with them. Vacuuming often and following the above mentioned tips should help curb the rate of infestation. Public knowledge about bed bugs is improving as is the applied research on their biology and behavior.