Sleep Tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bite…

February 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

As children we may remember having heard this before bedtime, but I’d bet you never took it seriously, did you?

I can remember my great grandmother telling me stories about being bitten by bed bugs when she was young.  She described to me how they burned like fire on the back of her legs as she sat in an old chair.  But bed bugs are a thing of the past…?

The reality is bed bugs are on the rise.  This is due in part to the fact that the world has become a much smaller place.  Travel to even remote parts of our world has become common place, as easy as calling your travel agent or going online and booking a trip.  Bed bugs were all but eradicated in the U.S. during the 1940’s & 50’s with the advent of DDT, where as in other parts of the world bed bugs were still going strong.  Travelers abroad unknowingly transported bed bugs on luggage or other personal effects.

The focus on “going green” has also inadvertently contributed to the spread of bed bugs.  Bed bugs breed very quickly, so they develop resistance to pesticides much the same as cockroaches do.  Pesticides have become less toxic to be less harmful to the environment which intern allows pests do develop resistance easier.  When considering that most of the chemicals we use in pest management are very similar in chemical composition to each other, it is surprising that there aren’t more resistance problems.

The bed bug’s anatomy also makes them difficult to control.  Bed bugs lack the sticky pads on their feet that other insects have that pick up the pesticides and which means you almost have to spray each individual insect to kill it.  Bed bugs tend to hide in locations where pest control professionals are not permitted to treat with the typical product used for general household pest management, so specialty products need to be used.

Adult bed bugs are small (about 3/16-inch long) reddish brown, with oval, flattened bodies that feed solely on the blood of animals.  They are sometimes mistaken for ticks or cockroaches. The young bed bugs resemble the adults, but are smaller and lighter in color.  . The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is the species most adapted to living with humans. It has done so since ancient times. Bed bugs are mentioned in medieval European texts as well as in classical Greek writings back to the time of Aristotle.

Bed bugs do not fly, but can move rapidly over floors, walls, ceilings and other surfaces.  Bed bugs are resilient.  Nymphs can survive months without feeding and the adults for more than a year.  The common bed bug prefers to feed on humans but will feed on any warm blooded animal including dogs and cats.  They are active mainly at night preferring to hide in the daytime near where people sleep.  They hide in small cracks in furniture, especially those associated with mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards and seams.  Bed bugs leave distinctive dark greasy-appearing markings or stains. These result from their droppings and make them fairly obvious… if you know what to look for.

Bed bugs normally do not reside on people like head or body lice.  Immediately after feeding they crawl off and reside elsewhere to digest their meal. Symptoms appearing after being bitten vary with the individual. Many people develop an itchy red welt or localized swelling within a day or so of the bite. Others have little to no reaction or the reaction is may be delayed. Bed bugs feed on any skin exposed while sleeping (face, neck, shoulders, back, arms, legs, etc.). The welts and itching are often wrongly attributed to other causes, such as mosquitoes or no-see-ums.  Bed bug bites can be confused with flea bites however, flea bites occur mainly around the ankles.  (Flea activity can be determined by placing a white towel or piece of paper in the area suspected of flea activity and then observed for small moving or jumping specks.)

A common concern with bed bugs is whether they transmit diseases. Although bed bugs can harbor pathogens in and on their bodies, transmission to humans is considered unlikely. Their medical significance is chiefly limited to the itching and inflammation from their bites.

Bed bugs are a growing problem and they are unlikely to go away.  Arming yourself with precautionary knowledge will help you to insure that you don’t bring them home with you from your next trip either at domestically or abroad.  Here are some things to look for when you check into the next hotel;

  1. 1. Before you bring your luggage into the room, pull back the sheets on the bed to reveal the mattress surface.
  2. 2. Check the seams of the mattress for small dark stains or even little reddish insects.
  3. 3. Some mattresses will have covers on them check around zippers or seams.
  4. 4. Now check the luggage stand and or dresser open the drawers look for the bed bug signs.
  5. 5. Check around the headboard and nightstand open the drawers.
  6. 6. Check the sofa and chairs
  7. 7. If you see any signs of bed bugs let the manager know and have them move you to another room.

Please keep in mind that in most cases the hotel has no idea that there is a problem until you alert them.  Hotels have their rooms treated for pests on a regular basis, but typical pest management services do not address bed bugs unless they are specifically asked to do so.  The inspection and treatment process is too labor intensive to be done as part of a regular service agreement.  Even the best hotel can develop a bed bug problem.

The precautionary measures listed earlier may initially sound like a bit of work on your part, but following this advice may help you avoid trouble later at home. Despite the fact that the occurrence of bed bugs are on the rise, if you follow these simple steps you will avoid any unwanted souvenirs on your next trip


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About A Better Bugman
Cliff and Jim have grown up in SW Florida while working in the pest control industry. They have worked for a few local companies but have now ventured out on their own to provide you with the best products and service available developed through over 40 years of experience.

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