Chances are, you or someone you know has had a run-in with bed bugs. It might have happened in a scrupulously clean bedroom. Or maybe it was a hotel room, office or college dorm. In the February issue of Scientific American entomologist Kenneth Haynes of the University of Kentucky explains how, after a lengthy absence, bed bugs are staging a comeback. The good news is scientists are intensively studying these insects, and their insights suggest novel ways of detecting the bugs and eradicating infestations. Some of those potential solutions are a long way off, however. In the meantime the best bet is to avoid bringing bed bugs home in the first place. I called Haynes to ask him how to do that and what to do if one suspects an infestation (eek!), among a bunch of other practical-minded questions.


Bed bugs are active mainly at night. During the daytime, they prefer to hide close to where people sleep. Their flattened bodies enable them to fit into tiny crevices--especially those associated with mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but do tend to congregate in habitual hiding places. Characteristically, these areas are marked by dark spotting and staining, which is the dried excrement of the bugs. Also present will be hatched and un-hatched eggs, the tannish shed skins of maturing nymphs, and the bugs themselves. Another possible sign are rusty or reddish smears on bed sheets or mattresses from crushed engorged bed bugs. Although it’s often stated that bed bugs have a telltale “buggy” odor, the smell is seldom evident except in extreme infestations and should not be relied upon for detection.
just got back from two weekends of traveling to two diff locations. noticed a slight rash yesterday on the side of my ribs and a couple smaller itchy spots on one side of my stomach, etc. i don’t think it was from the first weekend of travelling as my bed companion didn’t get anything. the second weekend was at a college campus, but i had wiped the bed down before putting sheets and a sleeping bag over it. got back home sunday and noticed the itch yesterday (tuesday). so now i’m freaking out and assuming the worst scenarios. i’ve washed and dried all my clothes (though i did leave my suitcase out for two days before i even realized the itch), my sheets, and used a handheld steamer on my mattress, clorox / lysol the edge of my bed and the wooden frame, vacuumed all open areas on my wooden floor, etc. not sure if i should go to urgent care or what, but i’ve so far used hydrocortisone (previously already prescribed). can you please help or can i send you photos since you’re more familiar with this? never happened to be at home before all 20 something years so now i’m terrified i brought something back with me!
Blood spots found on one’s sheets, bites and the presence of bed bug feces and cast skins are some of the indications of a bed bug infestation. Bites are commonly found on the parts of the body that are more likely to be exposed to bed bugs during sleep – the hands, neck, face, shoulders, legs and arms. While not always the case, bed bug bites are often grouped together in a small area and at times may occur in a line or a zigzag pattern. Bites normally look like small, flat or raised areas that may become inflamed, itchy, red or blistered. Bed bug bite reactions don’t always appear immediately after you’re bitten and may take a few days to begin causing symptoms. However, not everyone reacts to bed bug bites in the same manner.
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