Are bugs intent on making their home inside yours?
Like many children, you probably had a parent or a grandparent tuck you into bed at night and recite the phrase, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Only after they’d turned off the lights and left the room did you wonder if your skin itched because of what they’d said. Weren’t bed bugs a myth? You’d never seen bugs in your bed before. What did one look like?
For children raised in the last 50 years, fortunate enough to live in a developed country like the United States, bed bugs seemed as rare as catching a glimpse of the Tooth Fairy thanks to DDT and other insecticides. But bed bugs weren’t always so scarce. Early 18th century Colonial writings describe severe bed bug problems in the English Colonies. This continued well into the 20th Century with bed bugs rated as one of three top pests in America. Data showed that nearly 1/3 of homes in cities across America were infested with bed bugs and the percentage was even greater in lower income areas. But all of this changed when DDT came along. Sprayed or dusted on mattresses and around the bed, DDT would control bed bugs for up to a year or more. By the middle of the 1950s bed bugs were no longer considered “public enemy number one,” but an occasional household pest seen in depressed living conditions.
Unfortunately, the party could only last for so long. By the mid to late 1990s, bed bugs began making a come back in hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, apartments and single family homes across the United States, Canada, parts of Europe and Africa. And after the media had its fun scaring all of us with stories about bed bugs declaring war on five star hotels, we were all left wondering how bed bugs could make such a Rocky Balboa comeback.
Entomologists (insect specialists) and pest control professionals have their theories. First, many more people are traveling worldwide to places where bed bugs are more common. Second, the United States has seen an increase of illegal aliens and temporary workers who come from places where bed bugs are more common. Third, with a depressed economy many are seeking flea markets and second hand shops for sofas, mattresses and other needs. Many of these consumers under the age of 50 have never seen bed bugs before and don’t recognize the signs of a bed bug infestation. Finally, not only are bed bugs more active than before, moving from room to room, but the pest control industry has changed, with pest control more bait-oriented. DDT and chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides are long gone and modern insecticides are proving to be ineffective against bed bugs.
What can I do about them?
One of the first signs of bed bugs are small bites on the body that itch, appearing to be mosquito bites, chicken pox or a rash. Before you rush to your doctor’s office, check for little brown and nearly black dots on the mattress seams, on the box spring or the bedding. Bed bugs are small, flat and wingless and look similar to ticks or small cockroaches. If you discover bed bugs, you’ll need to call a professional pest control specialist to steam, clean and vacuum your mattress, floor and room. In severe cases, fogging or bombing a room chemically may be required. Building heat treatments that raise household tempuratures are showing real promise for being one of the most affective solutions but are quite expensive and are done most often by industry professionals.
Such measures are costly
The most cost-efficient way to protect you and your mattress from bed bugs are mattress encasements. They’re a proven way to protect your mattress before a bed bug infestation occurs. By encasing your mattress and box spring, the food source (your blood) is cut off and the bed bugs eventually die. Bedding encasements also prevent the spread of bed bugs throughout your home. Trapped inside your mattress, bed bugs can’t hop on you to travel to another room in your house, something they are prone to do.
Bed bugs have made a comeback and you can fight back with special mattress encasements.