Before you run off and buy every cream the pharmacy stocks, you’ll want to confirm that the marks are actually from bed bugs. Even if they match the description – round, red marks that may bump, swell, itch, and/or burn – the marks could be allergic reactions to food or fabric, irritations from a rough material, or bites from another pest like mosquitoes or carpet beetles.
With practice and a flashlight, nonprofessionals can become proficient in finding and destroying bed bugs. The process is made easier by reducing clutter, especially in bedrooms and sleeping areas. Bugs that are spotted can be removed with a vacuum (see previous discussion), or killed with over-the-counter insecticides labeled for such use. Most bed bug sprays intended for householders have little remaining effect after the spray has dried. Therefore it’s important to initially contact as many of the insects as possible with the spray droplets. Insecticide labels should be read carefully as some bed bug products should not be used on mattresses and seating areas. Some insecticides applied as powders or dusts (e.g., diatomaceous earth) will kill bed bugs although boric acid powder will not. However powders can be messy and difficult to apply, especially by nonprofessionals. Total release foggers (otherwise known as ‘bug bombs’) are ineffective against bed bugs and potentially dangerous when used incorrectly (see University of Kentucky entomology fact sheet Limitations of Home Insect Foggers).
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 a growing problem in schools and daycares. Typically they are introduced by students or staff living with an infestation at home. Pinpointing where the bugs exist can be challenging in such environments since there are no beds or sleeping areas for the insects to congregate. (Similar challenges occur when bed bugs are found in offices, libraries and retail stores.) Usually only small numbers of bed bugs are spotted, often on a student’s clothing, backpack, chair or desk. While this does not necessarily confirm that the child’s residence also has bed bugs, the parents should be notified that the home should be inspected, preferably by a professional. Teachers, nurses, and staff should be educated about the bugs and what they look like. Bed bugs should also be considered if a student frequently has reddened itchy welts --but keep in mind such reactions can be for reasons other than bed bugs.
In comparison to other insect bites, bed bug bite marks are usually in groups of three or more when they appear on the skin. This is sometimes called the “breakfast, lunch and supper bites”. As you can see in the picture below, the bites are rather close to each other. Their bites often look like little red bumps, pimples or even blisters and welts. Some people can also mistake them for flea bites. If one of these insects bite you, you usually won’t even feel it as it uses a form of anesthetic which dulls the pain. Bed bugs also are known to leave bite marks in a straight line, also in close proximity to each other. A single bed bug can bite you a number of times during the night. However, if you have a bed bug infestation, there are usually a large number of these little pests and this can result in a multitude of bite marks. Please also remember that some people may not have a negative reaction to these bites. In fact, sometimes they are mistaken for spider bites, even by medical professionals so make sure you let your doctor know if you feel it could be a bite from bedbugs. Lastly, you will be happy to learn that bed bugs do not fly so you won’t be attacked from the air.
If, after everything is thoroughly taken apart and cleaned, you still have an infestation, other measures may need to be taken. If you have an infestation of bats, you may also have a serious infestation of “bat bugs” which are very similar to the common variety. Often, the infestation is not as strong as those caused by their cousins as they are more apt to wander and relocate.
Bed bugs will also succumb to cold temperatures below 32°F, but the freezing temperatures must be maintained for a longer period (e.g., one to two weeks). Consequently, heating tends to be a better option throughout much of the country. Efforts to rid entire dwellings of bed bugs by raising or lowering the thermostat will be unsuccessful, although pest control firms are able to achieve lethal temperatures with supplemental heaters (see the subsequent section entitled "Heat Treatments" for more details).
The exact causes of this resurgence remain unclear; it is variously ascribed to greater foreign travel, increased immigration from the developing world to the developed world, more frequent exchange of second-hand furnishings among homes, a greater focus on control of other pests, resulting in neglect of bed bug countermeasures, and increasing resistance to pesticides. Declines in household cockroach populations that have resulted from the use of insecticides effective against this major bed bug predator have aided the bed bugs' resurgence, as have bans on DDT and other potent pesticides.[medical citation needed]
I work @ a hotel, and just found out that one of the rooms has a bed bug problem. I work at the front desk, and never go into the rooms. But i work third shift, and sleep in the chair in the lobby. Just wanted to know what my chances were of catching them? I will be going home and looking just to make sure. But since i work here, and its un-avoidable, what are some things i can do to protect myself from taking them home?
We had an exterminator check our mattress and he found old dried remains of a bed bug. Never had any bites. Sometimes I will get a small welt that itches for a few minutes then nothing. I have checked the bed ten thousand times and never saw anything. Please don’t say we have bed bugs. I’m losing my mind. Am a senior so if there’s anything I can use that’s household and low cost please let me know. Thank you.
I am constantly being bitten and it wakes me up from the itch, I bought calamine lotions and anti-itch products the calamine works the best for the itch. I don’t scratch them because they can get really infected…but it keeps me up for hours through out the night which keeps me tired all the time and I have to go to work in the morning with lack of sleep. I had to go to the board of health in my town to get the landlord to have my apartment treated…it’s a long process and it could be expensive with all the lotions I have to buy for the itch.
I live in a high rise apt bldg. There have been reports of bed bugs since I moved in two years ago. Recently it was my turn. I see no bugs, but man o man did they have a feast on my legs, and inner thighs. I went for the ammonia trick. The only thing I had was window cleaner. It helped stopped the itch temporarily. Then I’m good for some hours. When the itch comes back, I douse again in Blue window cleaner again. Strange but true.
As if you needed something else to worry about, bedbugs, those pests from the old bedtime rhyme are making a comeback. More of a nuisance than a health hazard, they’re showing up to suck blood from people in hotels, college dorms, and hospitals. Take an informative look at bedbugs: what they are, where they lurk, and how to spot them before they get you.