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Also read the CDC JOINT STATEMENT ON BEDBUG CONTROL IN THE U.S.

What are bed bugs?

Bed bug also know as (Cimex lectularius). The bed bug is a blood sucking species that is adapted to living with humans. Since the early 1950’s they were largely eradicated form the United States. However, within the past decade it has had tremendous resurgence. Bed bugs can be unintentionally carried on furniture, luggage and other materials so problems with bed bugs tend to be most severe in apartments, motels and other sites that see high amounts of public sleeping traffic.

Where do they come from?

Bed bugs have been with humans for centuries. Cimex lectularius is most frequently found in the northern temperate climates of North America, Europe, and Central Asia, although it occurs sporadically in southern temperate regions. The tropical bed bug, C. hemipterus, is adapted for semitropical warmer areas of Africa, Asia, and the tropics of North America and South America.

Most experts believe that increased international travel and the discontinued use of insecticides like DDT are the main reasons infestations are growing rapidly here in the US.  From around the word, bed bugs have been “hitchhiking” in traveler’s luggage, only to be unpacked here in the US.  Once they arrive, they are transported via transit systems like busses, taxis, trains, cruise ships, automobiles and eventually to homes, dormitories, apartments and other residences.

How do I know if I have a bed bug problem?       

Bed bugs usually feed between 3:00am and 5:00am while we are in a deep sleep and the bite is painless. They can feed up to 10 minutes before the insect is satiated and returns to a hiding area to digest the meal. A line of bites may appear where several bed bugs have fed along the edge of a sheet or clothing lying next to the skin.

Although the bite is not immediately felt, people often react to the proteins of the bed bug saliva introduced during biting. Usually, a reddish swelling spot may develop, associated with some swelling and itching. There may be little response immediately following the bite with peak itchiness being noticed at about a week, then gradually declining. Repeated exposure to bed bug bites may produce more intensive reactions and itchiness. However, these reactions are highly variable and some people show little response while others react strongly.  The detected presence of bed bugs is needed to determine if reddish “bite” might be from bed bugs. Extensive testing has determined that bed bugs are incapable of transmitting human pathogens.

Start by checking the sheets and mattress tufts of the bed for black fecal spots or spots of blood. Then run your finger along the rim of the bed frame and check the label to see if any are hiding there. Look on the bedside table and in any cracks that you can find to see if there are any sleeping there. Although they are hard to see in the daytime, these checks could reveal early signs of an infestation.

How do I get rid of them?

Most Iinsecticides used for bed bug control are primarily of the pyrethroid class of pesticides, like Harris Bed-Bug Killer. Elimination of bed bugs in a home involves use of effective insecticides applied to all points where bed bugs are present. Our water-based, odorless treatments must directly contact the bed bugs during application.  Repeated insecticide applications within 4 weeks will be required to kill bed bugs that later hatch from eggs, along with those that were missed during earlier treatment.

Aerosol “foggers” and “sprays” of non-persisting insecticides are usually less effective for bed bug control. At most these can be expected to kill a few of the insects that are directly contacted with sufficient quantity of the insecticide. However, they don’t adequately penetrate hiding sites of some bed bugs resulting in failure of eradication. Professional pest control companies can also employ these same tactics at a considerably higher cost. 

Heat Treatments

Some professional pest control companies use an expensive high temperature treatment as the primary non-chemical means of killing bed bugs. Specialized equipment has been developed that can force high temperature, dry steam heat into areas where bed bugs are present. They are particularly useful for treating areas that can not be sprayed directly with insecticides such as electrical equipment, magazines and book bindings, pictures, clothing, bedding and pillows.

Such equipment is only available through professional pest control operators and requires experience for effective use. Temperatures at the surface of treated areas must reach 140 to150F to kill bed bugs hiding in adjacent crevices and it is important to constantly monitor surfaces with a thermometer while using steamers to ensure sufficient heat has been applied. Steam treatment is time consuming and may take 15 seconds or more to treat a 1 foot-long area.

Vacuuming

The use of a sealed vacuum system during bed bug treatments is useful. Models with strong suction and a directed nozzle can be used to help extract some bed bugs hiding in protected crevices. The addition into the vacuum bag of a drying agent, such as diatomaceous earth, can be useful to kill collected insects. Immediately after use, vacuum bags should be removed, sealed in plastic, and discarded to reduce chances of accidentally spreading bed bugs.

Handling Bedding

Sheets and other bedding can be easily disinfested by laundering that involves a dryer cycle. The high temperatures involved in drying are critical to successfully kill bed bugs, with exposure to temperatures exceeding 120 F for a few minutes usually sufficient to kill all life stages.

When stripping beds during a bed bug treatment, pull the sheets carefully so as not to dislodge eggs or drop bed bugs onto the floor where they may be missed by other treatments. Accidental spread of bed bugs can also be prevented by bagging the bedding as it is moved to the laundry. Wash bedding and other materials at temperatures exceeding 120 F immediately and do not store in the laundry areas. Plastic coverings that completely encase mattresses, pillows and other items can be used to exclude and prevent colonization of bed bugs on these items.

Disposal of Infested Items

Disposal may be considered for mattresses, box springs, couches or other furniture that is heavily infested with bed bugs. If this is done, proper disposal should be ensured. Leaving such items on the street for disposal may cause them to be scavenged, which will spread infestations to new dwellings. Be careful when removing the items from the structure so that bed bugs will not become dislodged and infest other areas inside.

Bed Isolation

Isolation of beds can be done to determine if bed bugs are present and, after control efforts have been completed, to insure that the bug infestation has been eradicated. With bed isolation the box spring and mattress are encased and the frame is treated to insure no bed bugs are present. Then, the four posts that touch the ground are placed onto sticky traps. The homeowner then sleeps in the bed making sure to not let sheets or other bedding to touch the ground. Bed bugs that are in the room will come to feed and get caught in the sticky traps. A period of two or more weeks where no bed bugs are captured on the sticky traps at the base of bed legs is a good indication that the insects have been eliminated from the room.

How do I prevent a re-infestation?

Bedbugs are great travelers. There are many steps that you can take to reduce the chances of picking them up, preventing you from becoming one of the unfortunate victims of bedbugs.

Visitors- make sure any visiting guests are not transporting bed bugs in their luggage.
Clothes – although unlikely, it is possible for bedbugs to travel from one place to another on the clothes that you are wearing.
Shoes – these provide a good hiding place, and you will not be aware of their presence until it is too late.
Luggage – this is their favorite hideout. No bag is too big or too small to double up as a bedbug vessel.  Don’t unpack your bags on your bed at home.  Instead, unpack them on a table and inspect the contents carefully as you unpack.  Store luggage in sealed bags and store them in a closet or garage.Electronic items – bedbugs will hide wherever they can, and the small cracks in radios and phones may be just what they are looking for.

Where Can They Strike?

Although bedbugs may be more common in cheaper accommodation, you should never assume that you are immune from bedbugs, even in a five star hotel. Bedbugs arrive with a guest who is carrying them, so it does not matter how clean the accommodation may be.

 Leaving an infested room

When leaving a room in which you have discovered bedbugs, there are a few things to do to prevent taking them with you. First, have a hot shower to get rid of any that are on you, even though this is highly unlikely. Then wash all of your clothes on a hot setting, and dry them in a hot dryer, leaving the clothes for 20 minutes after they are dry to kill off all the bugs. You should then wash out your bags with hot water, and dry it in the hot dryer in the same way as your clothes. Finally, check all of your appliances for bugs, and clean the ones that can be cleaned. By taking these simple steps, the chances of spreading the bugs will be minimized.

Traveling

You may be surprised to learn that many bedbugs are picked up from the luggage hold on the plane. They can crawl from one person’s bag into your own, so make sure that your bags are sealed tight before putting them into the hold. When you get home, do not unpack onto your bed. Instead, unpack onto a table and check everything to make sure there are no signs of bugs. If you do find any, then get your traveling gear out of the house, and wash anything that can be washed. Other items should be thoroughly cleaned, and could even be sprayed with Harris Bed-Bug Killer, a direct contact killer as an added precaution. All of this may seem like a lot of precaution go through when traveling, but you will save yourself a lot of work and time to treat an infestation.

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