Posted on May 11th 2019
Bed bug paranoia is a very real thing. They can show up nearly anywhere and everywhere: in public transportation locations, hotels, schools, offices, even in our own homes. On any given day you can likely find a bed bug report pop up in some parts of the country. For people with limited education concerning bed bugs, it’s no wonder they fear them. Letting your mind run wild with dangers and uncertainties is easy when you know little about something, even more so with their increasing resurgence in the news. But to what extent should you let your anxiety bed bugs go? How much is too much? If you dread the day you could need a bed bug exterminator, take a deep breath; this fear doesn’t need to control your life.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped, brownish insects that find their food source in the blood of warm-blooded animals. The bad news for us? For the two main species, humans are their preferred hosts. Bed bugs get their name from the habitats they most often occupy in our homes: beds. They love to make their home in the mattresses or box springs of our beds, though they can easily reside in sofas, desks, chairs, clothing, beneath carpets, and behind wallpaper too. Their flat bodies let them squeeze into more or less any crevice they can find. They also prefer the dark, which is why they usually come out when we’re sleeping, and why they tend to choose our beds to live in over other spots in our homes. Though they can choose any dark place to hide, our beds give them a sheltered place in the daytime, and at night when they come out they have easy access to their meal (a.k.a. us).
Bed bugs cannot fly like a mosquito or jump like a flea, but they do move fairly quickly. Once they emerge from their hiding spot, they feed on their host for about five to ten minutes before retreating to digest the blood. Their routine feeding time occurs from around midnight to 5 in the morning, so it’s unlikely they’ll feed on you while you’re awake. Even if they did, you probably wouldn’t notice. The bite of a bed bug is actually quite painless. They inject an anesthetic as they feed, and their mouths are so small and their bite so shallow into the skin that it would be improbable to feel while awake, let alone be painful enough to wake you up. The only discomfort comes later when the infamous bites begin to itch.
What's the Risk?
For residents of the United States, the risk of bed bug infestation is, unfortunately, becoming a problem again. Though they were a common headache in the early 20th century, the introduction of strong insecticides to the public killed most of them off. In fact, it rendered them so rare that if you were born after the 1960s, odds are you didn’t pay bed bugs enough thought to even know how to identify them.
So what’s happened in the last decade or so? No one is completely sure, but it’s theorized that the combination the prohibition of those original zealous but toxic insecticides, a couple of generations going by without much need of bed bug exterminators, and an evolving resistance to modern pesticides that have given bed bugs their chance to thrive again.
What Are the Precautions to Take?
- Be Cautious While Traveling
- Protect Your Home
The easiest time to pick up bed bugs is while traveling. If you’re spending the night in a hotel, the first thing to do when you check into your room is to zero in on the bed for signs of bed bugs. Inspect the mattress seams, bed frame, box springs, and headboard for bug feces or dead bugs. If you find something troubling, immediately notify the management. In addition, be mindful with your luggage. Place it away from the bed and up off the floor, preferably on tables or luggage racks, and keep your clothes in your suitcases instead of unpacking them into the hotel’s drawers and wardrobes. Also, be careful to keep your pillows and bed linens off the floor.
As soon as you return home from traveling, don’t just throw your clothing into the hamper to be washed in a few days time. Unpack straight into the washing machine and run the clothes on the hot setting to kill any potential bed bugs trying to lift a ride unnoticed. You can also throw them into the dryer for a short cycle on high heat. Once your clothes are taken care of, investigate your suitcase for any signs of bed bugs, then vacuum it out just to be safe. But you shouldn’t be cautious of bed bugs solely when traveling; there are other ways they can be unintentionally introduced into your home. Secondhand furniture is a possible risk too. A good deal isn’t something to be afraid of, but be sure to check any used beds, couches, or chairs for bed bugs long before you bring them home with you. And if you worry about your bed becoming a home for these little nuisances, you can buy protective covers made especially to shield your mattress and box springs from an infestation.
How Do You Deal with Them?
- Confirm the Signs
- Save Any Bugs You Find
- Try to Contain It
- Call a Professional
Bite marks are the most commonly cited signs of a bed bug infestation, but they are not the only or most reliable evidence. For one thing, bites from mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and scabies can be easily mistaken for bed bug bites. The only unique characteristic of a bed bug bite is that the inflamed spots will form in the pattern of a straight line because they cannot fly or jump across your skin. Another problem is that, for some at least, bite marks may not show up immediately. If you’ve never been bitten before, the marks could take a few days or weeks to show signs of inflammation, and a small percentage of people may not have a reaction to their bites at all. More reliable signs to look for are indications of them in your bed or elsewhere in your home. Look for spots of feces, blood spots where bugs have been squished soon after feeding, or the actual bodies of them.
If you don’t know what a bed bug looks like, any bug can start to look like one. There are a surprising amount of species that can be confused for bed bugs when you panic and don’t stop to positively identify them. If you discover some bugs in your home that you think could be bed bugs, don’t automatically assume they are. Save any you manage to capture in a small container that you can send to a pest control company to confirm the identification.
Once you’ve confirmed that you really have an infestation on your hands, the last thing you want to do is panic. Don’t try to sleep on your sofa or at a friend’s place instead; you could end up spreading it or causing the bugs you have at home to become dormant. Bed bugs can survive anywhere between a month to 18 months without a host to feed on, so unless you plan on leaving your home empty for upwards of a year, there’s a good chance they’ll simply begin biting you as soon as you return home. And don’t try to throw out your furniture either. Not only will you be out a bed or a sofa, this extreme of a reaction also isn’t necessary because treatments can usually decontaminate, and throwing them out could result in the bugs spreading to someone else’s home.
Trying to treat the problem yourself seems like a tempting way to spend money, but the reality is that a DIY solution will likely cost you even more money and time than it would to call in a professional. In fact, a DIY job probably won’t work at all. Bed bugs are one of the most difficult pests to have in the home. Many pesticides won’t work because they’ve built up a resistance, and spraying pesticide yourself could scatter them around the home and make it a lot harder for a professional to get rid of them. If you suspect you have a bed bug problem, call a pest control service sooner rather than later.
Put Everything in Perspective
Bed bugs are not something to be overly scared of, nor is it the end of the world if you find them in your home. True, they are difficult pests to deal with. But they are manageable. It isn’t an impossible job to eliminate them from your home, and they don’t transmit diseases when they bite. Medically speaking, the bite of a mosquito is far more likely to hurt you than that of a bed bug. It’s important to put everything into perspective before you overreact. Be aware of the risk, but don’t allow your fear to consume you and stop you from living your life. Check out these Edge pest control reviews to see how Edge's professional bed bug treatments can help you finally get some sleep at night. If you’re experiencing a bed bug infestation, call us today!
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