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Everything You Need to Know about Bed Bugs and Preventing Infestations

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are more common than one may know and a growing problem in pest control. These small flea-like insects feed on blood and humans are the preferred hosts. Bedbugs are considered a public health issue by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States Department of Agriculture (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The first step to knowing how to get rid of bed bugs is to understand what they are, where they live and how they multiply.

1. What is a bed bug and what does one look like?

Identifying a bed bug may take a closer look due to the fact they look similar to other bugs. Adult bed bugs are long and brown with a flat oval body. They resemble an apple seed, about 1/4 inch long. If they have recently eaten, they look like a reddish brown balloon. They have a beak, antenna and short, golden hairs. Bed bugs have a musty, almost sweet odor. Some people say they smell like coriander. Younger bed bugs (referred to as nymphs) are smaller, white or yellow and can be invisible, especially if they haven’t recently eaten.

2. Where do bed bugs come from and how do you get bed bugs?

Bed bugs have been around for millions of years and were even found in the tombs of Egyptians. They have evolved into what scientists refer to as “nest parasites” because their habitat is bird nests and bat roosts. Now they have even learned to adapt to human environments. Experts suggest the growing occurrences of bed bugs in American is caused by global travel, secondhand furniture sales, and a general lack of awareness. They have also grown resistant to pesticides. Since bed bugs latch onto luggage, clothing and other moveable items, bed bugs become hitchhikers and depend on humans to transport them to establish new homes for feeding.

3. Where do bed bugs live?

Bed bugs hide in beds, bed frames, chairs, mattresses, box springs, sofas, curtains, drawer joints and curtain seams, behind loose wallpaper, in electrical outlets, appliances and even in the ceiling tiles. They have even been found in the head of a screw.

4. Can bed bugs live on clothing?

It is not common for bed bugs to live on clothing that someone is wearing. They prefer a more stationery habitat. They will attach to unpacked clothing, a backpack, purse or handbag. Again, they are expert hitchhikers can be transported via clothing until they find a new home.

5. How do bed bugs multiply?

Bed bugs need a minimum of one blood meal before they can develop into their six life stages. Each female may lay between one and three eggs per day and 200-500 eggs per her lifetime of between six to 12 months. To continue to mate, male and female bed bugs must feed at least every 14 days. Each bed bug egg takes 10 days to hatch and five to six weeks to develop into an adult. Each bed bug will molt five times before maturing.

6. How can you tell if you have a bed bug infestation?

The first sign you might have bed bugs is finding suspicious bites on your body. Bed bugs are great hiders but leave behind physical evidence. Look for bed bug skin sheddings, exoskeletons and shells, fecal spots that are smears, brown stains on mattresses, bed linens and other areas discussed earlier. Hundreds and thousands of molted skins will be left behind where there is a very large infestation.

7. What are the symptoms of a bed bug bite and how is it treated?

Everyone responds differently to a bed bug bite. Symptoms may include allergic reaction, raised, burning itchy welts, rashes, straight lines of multiple bites, temporary clusters of welts. For some, the bites could become infected. Topical creams like cortisone will usually relieve itching, an oral antibiotic will heal an infection and corticosteroids or antihistamines will relieve allergic reactions. Most bites will heal within two weeks of the original bite.

8. Do bed bugs carry disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs are not considered a medical or public health hazard, but their bites can cause discomfort and allergic reactions. There are continued studies and research on this topic.

9. Are the chemicals to kill bed bugs harmful to me, children, or pets?

Pesticides and chemicals are used to remove bed bug infestations. The CDC warns that instructions must be followed, “Follow all label instructions to the letter. Don’t use outdoor pesticides inside your home and don’t use more than recommended. This won’t kill more bedbugs, but it might make you and your family seriously ill.” Signs on pesticide poisoning include a headache, vomiting, nausea, dizziness and muscle tremors. These symptoms worsen in children. Contact a professional service like Pride Pest Service to effectively and safely remove any infestation and prevent poisoning. They are experienced with bed bugs and other infestations and have all the proper tools to keep your family and pets safe.

10. How do you prevent a bed bug infestation?

The first method to prevent bed bugs is awareness. If you travel, pack for protection and include a large plastic bag to store your luggage in. If you plan to use a hotel’s drawers and closets, pack enough plastic bags to cover your clothing. Inspect all the bedding before you move into a room. Use a flashlight to check for bed bugs in all bedding, window treatments, behind wall art and all soft surfaces. When is it time to leave the hotel, recheck your luggage and double check your clothing for signs of bed bugs? If you purchase second-hand furniture, treat with appropriate pesticides. If you purchase second-hand clothing, bedding or linens, wash with water and dryer temperatures at 120 Fahrenheit or higher.

Note: Bed bugs die at temperatures that are 120 degrees Fahrenheit, so when you get home, unpack your bags and put clothing directly into the washing machine and use the dryer. Dryer temperatures on high can kill all bed bug life cycles and eggs within 30 minutes. Store your luggage outside of your home, in a plastic bag preferably in the direct sun to kill bed bugs.

For successful bed bug infestation removal and all other pests, insects and rodent problems, consult the experienced professionals at Pride Pest Service.

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