The Bed Bug Primer (Part 2): Facts, Do’s, Don’ts on Avoiding Bed Bug Drama

August 1, 2015 by Doug Moore

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Bed bug reports have sent people scurrying for relief. Some are snapping up bug killers targeted at the nighttime marauders. Others are researching do-it-yourself methods on the Internet. What they hope to find is a fast, inexpensive fix.

But don’t count on it, bed bug experts say. Unfortunately, there is no easy remedy for most bed bug infestations.

Bed bugs are always adapting and constantly becoming immune to the chemicals that exterminators use, which has led to other tactics like heating the home.

So why are bed bugs so hard to get rid of?

Largely it’s because no single insecticide that’s permitted for indoor use can kill bed bugs, writes entomologist Dini Miller in one of the fact sheets she’s developed for the state of Virginia. The government limits what kinds of pesticides can be used indoors because of the potential for harming people and pets, explains Miller, who also runs the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory at Virginia Tech.

Bed bugs are hard to treat because they’re so good at hiding, she said. Their hiding places can be many and difficult to pinpoint, and they often include places that can’t be treated with insecticides.

Bed bugs can move easily, which makes control especially problematic in shared housing, such as apartment buildings.

Few people know enough about bed bug biology and behavior to control the pests effectively, said Tim McCoy, a research technician in Miller’s lab. They also don’t have access to more concentrated products and other methods that pros can use.

The products the public can buy — legally, that is — are minimally effective, McCoy said.

Those same products do nothing for a person’s mental health, which can be shaken by a bed bug infestation discovery.

Finding out you have bed bugs is devastating and it really affects your personality and your mind-set, I do a fair amount of counseling – calming people down so they’re more at ease and so they understand that it’s not the end of the world, it’s just a bug.

BED BUG FACTS
• The adults are the size and color of a flat apple seed.
• Bed bugs don’t fly or jump — they just crawl.
• They find humans by detecting our carbon dioxide emissions and body heat.
• Humans won’t feel them bite because the bugs inject them with an anesthetic before they chomp.
• Months can pass before bed bugs need to feed again, although they prefer to feed every couple days.

BED BUG MISCONCEPTIONS
• Only dirty places have bed bugs. These pests want to be where the people are, so the amount of clutter has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter if the environment is dirty or clean, bed bugs will want to be there if humans are there.
• Poor areas are the only ones with bed bugs. Income level has nothing to do with where bed bugs roam. Both budget hotels and their luxury counterparts have been victims.
• Bed bugs can transmit disease. If there is a silver lining, it’s that no research to date has shown that bed bugs transmit disease. They can carry disease, but they can’t transmit it.

BED BUG DO’S
Now that you see an infestation there are two things that should be first on the to-do list.
• Call a professional. A bed bug exterminator can be expensive, but the exterminator will be even more expensive if the infestation spreads or grows. So nip it in the bud and prepare to enjoy the peace of mind that follows, even if that wallet is a bit lighter. Consider hiring a canine bed bug scent detection service to determine exactly what the extent of the infestation is. Pinpointing the problem areas will help the pest control professional be more effective with their treatment.
• Maintain the normal routine. That’s right, go sleep in that bed bug-infested bed. Sounds scary and like a restless night, right? It’s the only way to ensure the bugs don’t spread throughout the house.

BED BUG DON’TS
You’ve spotted a little apple seed like bug on your mattress and a definite itchy bite on your arm. Cue the bed bug freakout. But before you do, take a moment to stop, breathe and review this list. Because here are three things you definitely don’t want to do.
1. Don’t abandon the bedroom. Instinct says flee, but logic says stay. If your favorite restaurant closes you will find another one. Bed bugs will, too. Leaving the bedroom will cause the bed bugs to spread throughout the house as they hunt for food (aka you), turning a little problem into a big one.
2. Don’t throw away the bed. Chances are not all the bed bugs are living inside the mattress, so throwing that bed away is a lot of expense with little reward. The bed bugs that are in the mattress can be scattered throughout the house as you drag the mattress away. A mattress and box spring encasement is the way to go.
3. Don’t release a fogger. The little bomb will kill the ones in the center of the room, but the ones who live on the outskirts, like in the walls, will simply scatter throughout the house.

For more information about bed bugs, heat treatment, and canine bed bug scent detection, click here.

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