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Bedbugs are a nationwide occurrence with cases reported in all 50 states. According to a 2011 National Pest Management Association (NPMA) survey, one in five Americans now report they have had a bedbug infestation or know someone who has encountered bedbugs at home or in a hotel.
Though they are not known to transmit or spread disease, bedbugs can cause red, itchy welts when they bite humans. On top of this, bedbugs can be difficult to get rid of once they make it into your home. Most infestations start when travelers bring these tiny pests home in their suitcases. However, if you know how to spot and prevent bedbug infestations, avoiding them is a piece of cake.
What Does a Bedbug Look Like?
An adult bedbug has reddish-brown coloring and is the size of an apple seed. They have a flat, oval-shaped body that can expand after feeding.
Bedbugs eggs are pearly white and about the size of a pinhead. They can usually be found on bed frames or in furniture crevices.
Bedbugs are most often found by evidence of their presence rather than the bedbugs themselves. You’re most likely to discover them by finding tiny reddish blood stains on the mattress or boxspring where one has been crushed or by black excrement on sheets that looks like a dot from a marker. You may also find their skins around a bed.
Where Do You Find Bedbugs?
Bedbugs are talented hiders, which can make them hard to spot at first. Besides hiding in crevices along the bed and mattress, bedbugs can be found in tight spaces that provide security such as behind wall hangings, loose wallpaper, and outlet covers. They move about at night to feed but can be active during the day if they are hungry.
Though they are mostly found on or around beds, bedbugs can be transferred from multiple surfaces. That’s why it’s important to take extra steps to avoid picking up bedbugs while on vacation.
No matter how clean a hotel or a person is, bedbugs can still find a way into any residence. They are not a pest that discriminates and can be found across cities and in urban areas. Researching your travel destination beforehand can be a helpful first step to avoiding a bedbug infestation. Scanning the review section to see if there are any recent cases of bedbugs or checking the Bedbug Registry website may help.
How to Inspect a Bed for Bedbugs
Identifying bedbugs before they spread is the first step to prevention. Check the beds in your hotel room or vacation home upon your arrival. The following steps will ensure a thorough inspection:
DO NOT PUT LUGGAGE ON BED
When you arrive at your vacation home or hotel room, either leave your luggage in your car or store it in a room without carpeting (a bathroom is a great option).
GRAB A FLASHLIGHT
Get a flashlight, or use the one on your cell phone, and check the edges of the room where the carpet meets the baseboard, around outlets, and at the base and corners of furniture. Check the crevices of the bed frame and behind the headboard. You are looking for bedbug stains (blood or excrement), skins, eggs, or even live bedbugs.
STRIP THE BED
Slowly pull back each layer of the bed from comforter to mattress. Look at the pillows and at the seams of the mattress carefully. This process may seem laborious, but it can give you peace of mind during your entire stay.
If you find anything during your inspection that could be a sign of bedbugs, leave the room immediately and report it to hotel management.
These steps can also be done at home a few days after returning from vacation. The only way to fully diagnose a bedbug infestation is to find a bug. Since people respond differently to bedbug bites, rashes or welts may not necessarily mean that you have been bitten by a bedbug.
How Do You Treat for Bedbugs?
If you find signs of bedbugs when you return home from traveling, taking action quickly can make the problem easier to manage and eliminate.
Bedbugs are tricky pests, but not impossible to get rid of. Bringing in an expert to create a treatment plan may make the situation less stressful, but do-it-yourself options are available. It is important to keep realistic expectations during treatment and be careful to not transfer the infestation to new rooms and or other locations outside your house, such as work or friends’ homes.
When you discover that bedbugs have found their way into your home, seal infested items in plastic bags. Larger items that cannot be bagged should be kept in one place in order to isolate the infestation.
Heat and cold treatments are non-chemical options that could be effective. Bedbugs will die if exposed to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes or 0 degrees Fahrenheit for four days. Bags can be placed in freezers or outside in sunlight to try to reach these levels.
Infested clothes can be washed in hot water and dried on the highest dryer setting for 30 minutes in order to kill bedbugs.
You can also store items in bags for an extended amount of time in order to starve the bedbugs. Take note that bedbugs can live around five months without a meal.
If removing infested furniture like a mattress from your home, wrap it in a sheet or plastic before carrying it out, as it could spread the infestation to other rooms.
If you decide to use pest control products to treat an infestation, always follow the instructions on the labels. Never use an outdoor product indoors and only apply products where instructed. Applications to furniture, particularly mattresses, should be left to a pest control professional for safety reasons.
You may have to do several rounds of treatment before seeing results. Inspect the infested area seven days after each treatment and repeat if necessary. Different types of pesticides, traps, interceptors, and other tools may be helpful for treatment and monitoring the area. Interceptors are plastic devices placed under the legs of furniture to catch bedbugs and keep them from climbing the legs.
Pest control companies can offer many treatment plans, as well as treatment products that are not available to the general public. If you hire a professional, follow their instructions to keep all occupants safe and to prevent the spread of the infestation.
Treating bedbugs can take weeks and even months and can take a toll emotionally and financially. The Joshua’s Pest Control branch closest to you can provide specific guidance about the types of treatment options offered (services vary by branch). Rest assured that bedbugs can be treated and you can reclaim your home.