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Bed bugs are small, flat, oval, reddish-brown parasites that feed primarily on the blood of humans and some other animals. Adult bed bugs are readily visible to the unaided eye, as are the immature nymphs and eggs. They are typically found in close proximity to sleeping quarters such as beds, bed frames, mattresses, box springs, or other furniture where people rest for extended periods of time.
Cockroach nymphs are sometimes mistaken for bed bugs, but their bodies are longer and more cylindrical whereas bed bugs are more round and oval. Booklice and carpet beetles can be misidentified as bed bugs as well. Before beginning any bed bug treatment regiment, proper bed bug identification is essential.
Bed bugs do not colonize the way social insects such as ants or bees do. They do, however, have a tendency to nest or "cluster" in certain spots that are suitable for their habitation. These clusters are often in concealed locations in close proximity to their food source such as seams of mattresses, inside box springs, behind wall switch plates, or other similar locations.
Appearance & Characteristics: Bed bugs are small, flat, oval, reddish-brown parasites ranging in size from 1-7 mm (up to about 1/4").
Distribution: Commonly found throughout the world in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia.
Nest Sites: Although bed bugs do not colonize or nest the way some other insects may, the do tend to congregate in groups or clusters. These clusters are most often in sheltered areas in close proximity to their host sleeping quarters.
Preferred Food Sources: Bed bugs primarily feed on the blood of humans but will also feed on certain other warm-blooded animals as well.
Colony Size: Bed bugs do not have traditional colonies. Under the right sets of circumstances, bed bug populations can expand into the several thousands.Diseases Associated: Bed bugs are not actually known to spread or transmit any diseases. Some people, however, may experience reactions to bed bug bites due to allergy, excessive scratching, or secondary infection.
Signs of Infestation: In addition to bed bug bites on face, arms, neck, hands, or other body parts, signs of bed bug presence may include live bed bugs, bed bugs or fecal stains on the folds of mattresses, blood spots on sheets or linens, shed exoskeletons, or a characteristic musty odor.
Of course the first thing you'll want to look for is live, adult bed bugs. These are readily visible to the naked eye. Beyond that, fecal stains near harborage areas almost always accompany a bed bug infestation, along with blood stains on sheets or linens.
Following your inspection you'll be equipped with the essentials of where the bed bugs seem to be located and how widespread the infestation seems to be. You can then begin exploring bed bug treatment options. There are many, many alternatives when it comes to treating for bed bugs, including heat, steam, pesticides, dusts, traps, monitors, and many more.
How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs: 8 Step Guide
When dealing with bed bugs, a complete, comprehensive inspection is the key. Inspecting for bed bugs is not easy, meaning even the most skilled bed bug inspectors can miss finding the presence of bed bugs. Equip yourself with a quality flashlight and be prepared to examine all cracks, crevices, joints, folds, and other tight spaces anywhere bed bug activity may be suspected.
Get your bed bug monitoring program in high gear. If you weren't able to find any evidence of bed bugs during your inspection, monitors will drastically enhance your inspection efforts. Use a combination of monitors, including sticky traps, interceptors, and reservoirs in various locations and check the monitors daily. These monitors will provide valuable insights into the presence or absence of bed bugs, where concentrations may be located, and how widespread the infestation may be.
Once you've confirmed the presence of bed bugs, don't delay. Whatever evidence you discovered is likely to be representative of a much larger bed bug problem. Although bedbugs may be slow to reproduce as compared to some other insects, each adult female can produce about one egg per day which takes about 10 days to hatch. Left unresolved, bed bug problems can get out of hand rather quickly. The longer you wait to begin a remedial treatment strategy, the harder the bed bug problem is likely to be to resolve.
Start eliminating things in the environment that might create cover or harborage for bed bugs, and vacuum floors, carpets, beds, mattresses, cracks, and anything else you can find. Discard the contents in a sealed container away from the home. Vacuuming is an excellent way to immediately remove bed bugs from the area, as compared to some pesticide applications which may produce slower results. The fewer protective hiding spots available to bed bugs, the less likely it becomes for a bed bug population to sustain itself.
Anything that can be laundered, should be laundered. Clothes, toys, blankets, linens, curtains, rugs, whatever you've got. Remember, it's the heat that kills bed bugs, not the water. So wash on hot water and dry on the highest heat setting. When you remove the laundered contents from the dryer, place in sealed containers or bags that you know to be free of bed bugs and keep them in there until you're confident the bed bug problem has been resolved.
A critical step in your bed bug control strategy is getting specialized bed bug encasements for all mattresses and box springs throughout the home. These covers are designed to not only prevent bed bugs from getting into the mattresses, but also to keep them from coming out. Because bed bugs can survive for up to 18 months without a meal, sealing these off is essential to preventing bed bug recurrence. It is best practice to seal ALL mattresses and box springs throughout the house, even in bedrooms where bed bug activity is not suspected. Better to take all precautions on the front end than find yourself going through the entire process all over again later on.
Start treating for bed bugs, using any combination of methods that are practically available to you. If you decide to go the route of pesticide application, be sure to follow all label instructions and use the recommended safety equipment. And remember, effective control of bed bugs is a marathon, not a sprint, requiring dedication and commitment over an extended period of time to ensure total elimination and non-recurrence.
Approach your bed bug elimination program as just that...a program. Your bed bug infestation is unlikely to be resolved overnight. Keep your monitors in place long after bed bug activity is no longer detected, and keep treating as long as activity continues to be found. With the right level of persistence, your bed bug problem will eventually be a thing of the past.
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