August 18, 2015 by Doug Moore
Bed bugs are being reported all across the United States as well as worldwide. This pest, was virtually non-existent just a few years ago, is now affecting colleges and universities nationwide. As we are seeing in the news, bed bugs are affected student housing at various colleges and universities across the nation. Here’s a list of essential information that will help keep you bed bug free.
Bed bug adults are small, brownish insects, just under a 1/4 inch long and are relatively flat. They are nearly as wide as they are long, and oval in shape. Immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are much smaller and lighter in color. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent and are no bigger than a pinhead (1 mm about the size of a letter on a penny). The eggs are very small (approximately 1mm), whitish, and very difficult to see on most surfaces without magnification (individual eggs are about the size of a dust speck).
Both immature and adult bed bugs feed exclusively on blood and while they have been shown to feed on other animals such as mice, dogs, cats, rabbits, etc., their primary food source comes from humans. Bed bugs do not live on or infest people, instead they are similar to a mosquito that feeds and then leaves. They are nocturnal insects and spend most of the daylight hours hiding in locations where they are unlikely to be seen. They are most active late at night when the occupants of the structure are sleeping, during which time they come out of their hiding places to feed. They cannot fly or jump instead, they move about by crawling. If they are present in a home, they are usually associated with the bed or couch so that the bug can be in close association with its food source but can also be found in other areas as well.
Do Bed Bugs Carry Diseases?
Despite the fact that bed bugs feed on blood they have never been shown to be effective at transmitting diseases. As a result while being bitten by bed bugs may be very upsetting, aside from the itchy red welts that may result from their bite, they are not considered a medically important pest. The reaction to the bite can also vary quite a bit from one person to the next. The most common reaction is similar to that of a mosquito bite, however some reactions can be more severe and then there are some individuals do not react at all.
How Do I Get Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs do not simply wander in from the outside; instead they have to be transferred from one infested environment to another. Because of this, bed bugs have evolved into master hitchhikers. It is difficult to get bed bugs if you have not picked up an infested item, stayed in an infested environment, or had someone visit you that has been in an infested environment.
How Do I Avoid Getting Bed Bugs?
There are many other ways bed bugs can be transported into your room. To prevent bed bugs from getting into your room, inspect everything you brought with you (backpack or luggage) for the presence of bed bugs. Pay special attention to seams, folds, zippers or any other location that provides the bed bugs with a hiding place.
What are the Symptoms and Signs from bed Bugs?
If you repeatedly wake up with unexplained bug bites on your body this could be a sign that you are experiencing a bed bug problem. Another thing to look for is live bugs matching the description above. Even if it turns out not to be a bed bug, housing should be aware that another bug problem exists within your room. Finally, if you see dark brownish black stains appearing on your linens or mattress this could be a sign of a bed bug infestation.
The first and most important thing is to contact your student housing office. Student housing departments around the country should take this problem very seriously and have a pest control contractor to deal with these issues.
Also, if you have itchy welts, it does not mean that it is necessarily from bed bugs. There are many things that can cause bed bug like symptoms. Another step you can take to help with your potential problem is to visit your student health office. Health professionals may be able to assist in identifying your problem as well as prescribe a medication to assist with any itching or irritation associated with your bug bites.
What do I need to do?
The primary goal is to get all of the bed bugs eliminated from your room in as timely a fashion and your cooperation is key. Another important thing to do is to try not to panic. We know having bed bugs is a very stressful situation, but be assured the problem can be corrected.
There are several things that you should not do:
If items are not removed in the correct fashion you may inadvertently spread the problem into the halls and other areas. In addition, once items have been discarded they may be picked up by another unsuspecting student spreading the problem to their room.
Any actions that you take to control bed bugs on your own could complicate the problem and may cause unexpected problems for others. Student should advise housing officials who will then take the appropriate steps.
While the initial instinct is to get out of the room and sleep elsewhere, in doing so you run the risk of taking bugs with you in your belongings. Instead the student should contact housing immediately so that the appropriate corrective actions can be taken.
- Do not throw items away or remove them from your room
- Do not attempt to control the bed bugs on your own
- Do not relocate yourself to another room
In addition to reporting any suspected bed bug activity to the housing department, there are a few other things that you can do to help in reducing the likelihood of perpetuating the bed bug problem.
Not only does clutter provide an ideal place for bed bugs to hide that cannot be treated, but it also makes completing the bed bug service very difficult.
Since your clothes could have bed bugs or their eggs, it is important to correctly launder your clothes. Place linens and other items that can be laundered in plastic bags and take the bag directly to a laundering facility. Dump the contents of the bag into the laundry machine and place the empty bag inside a clean bag. These items should be laundered in hot water. Bed bugs are susceptible to heat and this exposure will kill any bugs as well as their eggs. If you cannot wash the clothes on a hot wash cycle, then dump the bag directly into a hot dry cycle which will serve the same purpose. As soon as the items have been dumped from the bag into the washer or dryer, the bag should be disposed of in an outdoor dumpster.
After washing these items, anything that does not need to be used in the next month or so, place in a clean garbage bag and seal it tightly. This will assure you that the clothes/bedding is free of bed bugs and will remain free until the problem is eliminated from your room.
- Clean up clothes and general clutter found throughout the room.
- Bag laundry and launder in hot water
Other than cleaning and laundering, leave the rest of the service to the trained professionals. Inspecting excessively, treating on your own, or throwing items out can spread the problem and make it more difficult to treat.
Bug bites and itching
Just because you have itchy welts does not mean that it is necessarily from bed bugs. There are many things that can cause bed bug like symptoms. Another step you can take to help with your potential problem is to visit your student health office. Health professionals may be able to assist in identifying your problem as well as prescribe a medication to assist with any itching or irritation associated with your bug bites.
Can I bring bed bugs home from college?
Yes, transporting bed bugs home is something to be concerned about. The most important step that you can take is to limit what you bring home. If possible, only bring home clothing and backpacks that has been hot laundered and bagged.
Where do I learn more about bed bugs?
For more information about bed bugs, heat treatment, and canine bed bug scent detection, click here.
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