Bed bugs are as old as the human race. They’ve been around for thousands of years because they’they’ve evolved to survive in changing environments. They’ve adapted so well to humans that most people don’t even notice they’ve been bit until the bed bug is already gone. By the time a person starts scratching, the bed bug has moved on to its next victim. Although bed bugs don’t seem to transmit diseases to people, they are still unpleasant pests to have around.
Bed bugs are small, flat, brown, bloodsucking parasites that feed off their hosts—us and our pets. They are attracted by the carbon dioxide we exhale and our body warmth. They are most active at night, when humans are not. While we sleep, they feed, gorging themselves on blood. Preventing bed bugs will help you sleep better.
Bed bugs spread across the country by hitchhiking. Being so small, they go unnoticed and attach themselves to clothing, luggage, and moving boxes. Because they’re attracted to warmth, bed bugs often hitch rides on electronic devices like laptops, tablets, and cell phones. USB ports are a welcoming gateway to them.
These parasites prefer buildings where lots of people live and sleep, and where there’s a constant turnover. Dormitories and hotels are ideal for bed bug infestation. From there, they hitch a ride to your home where they make their way to the bedrooms and burrow into the mattresses, box springs, bedding, carpets, and curtains.
With the invention of pesticides in the 1940s, bed bugs greatly declined in numbers. However being highly adaptable, they’ve built up a resistance to common pesticides and have experienced a resurgence that has resulted in infestations of epidemic proportions.
If you don’t have bed bugs yet, it’s a good idea to use preventive measures to lessen the risk of getting them. Some of these measures include; unpacking suitcases in the garage when you return from a trip. Immediately washing all clothing in hot water and drying on the hottest possible dryer setting. Fumigate your suitcase by sealing it in a trash bag with no-pest strips for two weeks.
Regardless of whether you have bed bugs or are trying to avoid them, place mattresses and box springs in zippered, plastic encasements. If bed bugs are already in the mattress or box springs, they cannot escape to feed and will die. Encasements won’t prevent bed bugs from entering the house, but they’ll keep bugs from entering mattresses and box springs. Encasements are a better solution than spraying bedding with pesticides, and inhaling the fumes while you sleep.
If you do have bed bugs, call a professional exterminator who’ll make a thorough inspection of mattresses, box springs, and your entire house. If bed bugs are confirmed, a professional will use a variety of methods such as commercial strength pesticides, encasements, vacuuming, and heat to eradicate the infestation.
The best and most effective treatment is heat. It’s also the most expensive and labor intensive. Heat treatment uses three or four heaters per house, a couple of fans in each room, a generator to run all the equipment, and a crew to move heavy objects so that heat can penetrate all surfaces. In order to work, the entire house must be heated to 140 to 150 degrees for several hours.
While heat treatment is the most effective, it’s not 100% all of the time. Follow up inspections should be done every two weeks until no more bugs are found. Bug traps don’t work well to get rid of bed bugs, but do work well as monitoring devices. Bed bugs caught in sticky traps will indicate that some remain and more work needs to be done before they can multiply and spread. Heat eliminates the poisonous residue of pesticides, but has no lingering effects making a reinfestation more likely.