What are Bedbugs?
Bedbugs (Cimex Lectularis) are small insects that feed on warm blooded animals (preferably humans).
How do I identify Bedbugs?
Bedbugs are approximately 1/4″ long, reddish brown, oval-shaped but flattened when viewed from a side angel and wingless insects.
What is the public health risk?
Since Bedbugs feed upon the blood of people, they often produce itchy and irritating welts. Although the actual bite is painless, many people develop these welts minutes to days after the bite occurred. Bedbugs require a blood meal between each stage of development and once they reach adulthood they typically feed every 3-4 days. Although it has been proven that they carry disease (viruses, bacteria, protozoa and parasitic worms), these diseases do not multiply within the Bedbugs. There is no evidence that Bedbugs transmit diseases of any kind.
Even though there is no clinical or scientific proof that Bedbugs transmit disease, the stigma and emotional stress of dealing with Bedbug infestations can cause a quality of life issue with individuals and economic issues for commercial establishments.
Where are Bedbugs found?
Bedbugs can be found almost anywhere there are people including hospitals, schools, homes, hotels, apartment, movie theaters, buses, planes, stores, etc. They can be introduced into various structures via the belongings of people such as luggage, furniture and bags. Once inside they will seek out dark cracks and crevices in which to hide. They need to feed so they eventually harbor close to where people are sedentary for a period of time. Common places inside the home are: mattresses and box-springs, bed frames, headboards, night stands, baseboard moldings, dressers, chairs, sofas and any other area they can find a hiding place.
How did I get Bedbugs?
Some how the insects were introduced into your home. This could have been because you recently traveled, visited a home that had Bedbugs, had a house guest that had them in their belongings, brought home used furniture or live in a multi-family dwelling (unfortunately you are at the mercy of your neighbors because Bedbugs can travel along electrical line and pipes within the wall from unit to unit).
How do I know if my home is infested?
Unfortunately most people find out after being bitten and developing a welt. Some people do not react to bites therefore do not develop welts so the infestation may become large before being recognized. Typically Bedbugs leave behind fecal matter in the form or small dark brown to black spots in the creases and seams of mattresses and/or box-springs as well as the cracks and crevices of furniture. Some people may even notice small blood spots on their bed sheets.
If a Bedbug infestation is suspected, what can I do?
Do not attempt to treat these insects on your own. Rarely, if ever are self-treatments successful. Call a pest management professional to perform a visual inspection or the more accurate canine assisted inspection. Since Bedbugs are built to hide even pest management professionals have trouble identifying their presence. Canine assisted inspections are performed with highly trained dogs that can detect the presence of live Bedbugs, their fecal matter or cast skins (Bedbugs “shed” their skin in order to grow). Canine assisted inspections are typically 90% accurate or higher in identifying the presence of Bedbugs whereas human inspections are normally 30-40% accurate. Although much more expensive, the canine assisted inspection is the best method for identifying the presence of Bedbugs (I hate to say this since I have been involved in the pest management industry for over 15 years but the truth is the truth!).
What should I expect from the pest management professional in terms of treatment?
A pest management professional should first give you a detailed list of preparation items for the rooms to be treated. These items should include but not be limited to the following:
- Removing and all bedding material
- Emptying dressers, closets, night-stands, etc.
- Removing items from shelves, the tops of dressers and night-stands
- Removing pictures from walls, tapestries, curtains and blinds
- Pulling back the carpet from walls
- Removing switch plate and outlet covers
- Placing small electronics in plastic garbage bags
- Washing all clothing and other washables in the hottest water allowed without damaging the material
- Placing items that cannot be washed into the dryer on the hottest setting possible that will not damage the article(s) (stuffed animals and dry clean only items)
- Leaving items in plastic bags or containers until the treatment process is complete (2 or more treatment are usually required)
The treatment techniques of the pest management professional may include all or any combination of the following:
- Vacuuming (HEPA vacuums only should be used)
- Heat treatment
- Installing Bedbug proof mattress and box-spring covers
- Monitoring (traps) devices
Why is the treatment so expensive?
There is a lot of work involved in successfully eliminating an infestation. Most pest management professionals send 2 or more service technicians and in most cases multiple treatments are needed. The pest management professionals must treat every possible crack and crevice where Bedbugs may hide. It is a time consuming and labor intensive treatment program.
I live in an apartment/condo/townhouse, am I more susceptible?
Yes. When living in a multi-family dwelling of any kind, you are at the mercy of your neighbors. Bedbugs can travel through walls via plumbing, conduits, and electrical wiring. You may also pick them up by using the communal laundry facility or gym and by sitting in lobby chairs. It is not uncommon to see live Bedbugs in the hallways of apartment buildings, co-ops and condos.
Is all of the fear and panic portrayed by the media warranted?
I guess this depends on your perspective. Since Bedbugs are not known to transmit disease, there is no serious threat to health. Most people that are bitten by Bedbugs develop a welt, some minor swelling and irritation similar to a mosquito bite. In rare cases, people may develop large welts and a more serious allergic reaction while others do not know they were bitten at all. Everyone is different and every reaction is different.
However, Bedbugs have recently been found in clothing stores, general retail stores and movie theaters. I have personally been involved in some of these cases and they have been well documented in the news media. This is why education and prevention are crucial to curtaining the overwhelming amount of Bedbug infestations we are witnessing.