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Bed Bugs FAQ

6/7/2010 12:00:00 AM
Bed Bugs FAQ

What is a bed bug?

Bed bugs are reddish-brown nocturnal insects, about 1/8 inch long, which feed solely on the blood of humans and animals. They normally go a few days between feedings, but can survive for up to 18 months without a meal if necessary. They can travel 5-20 feet in search of a blood meal, and hide during the daytime. A female bed bug lays up to five eggs per day, and five hundred over the course of her lifetime. Needless to say, bed bugs multiply rapidly, and are extremely difficult to treat.

I always thought that bed bugs were a myth.

Not at all. The old saying, “don’t let the bed bugs bite,” was based on truth. However, we have seen a recent resurgence in bed bug infestations, after decades of virtually no activity. No one is quite sure about why bed bugs have made a comeback; possible reasons range from the increase in international travel, to the use of more environmentally-friendly (thus weaker) pesticides.

Where can I expect to encounter bed bugs?

In addition to beds in hotels and motels, bed bugs are frequently found in movie theaters and taxi cabs; anywhere that provides shelter and regular blood meals.

My house is clean. How could it have become infested by bed bugs?

Have you traveled overseas recently? Stayed in a motel? Purchased used furniture, like a mattress or sofa? Moved into a new home (47% of all moving vans are infested)? Any of these activities could have resulted in a bed bug infestation in your home.

Will the problem go away if I get a new mattress and box springs?

Probably not. Bed bugs can also infest bed frames, night stands, closets, wall hangings, wall voids, light switches and outlets, clock radios—everything, basically.

How can I tell if I’ve been bitten?

Bed bug bites are tiny welts, which do not have red spots in the middle (if your bites look like this, they are from a different pest). They can become painful and slightly swollen. Sometimes, it can take close to two weeks before a bite reaction occurs, which makes it difficult to track down the source of the bites, particularly if one has been travelling.

Do bed bugs transmit diseases, as ticks and mosquitoes can?

No. So far, bed bugs have not been proven to transfer any diseases.

What kinds of treatment options are available?

Most companies use pesticide treatments to eliminate bed bug infestations, though some have been experimenting with non-chemical heat treatments. Mattress encasements can also be used to cut bed bugs off from their food supply. In all cases, treatments are labor intensive and costly, simply because bed bugs are much more difficult to control than, say, ants.

What steps should I take to prepare my home for a bed bug treatment?

Bed linens will have to be removed and washed in hot water; stuffed animals, pillows, shoes, and the like placed in the dryer; dresser drawers emptied; furnishings moved 2-3 feet away from the wall; mattress and box springs removed from bed; with other steps to be taken depending on the treatment.

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