Most people, including pest control operators, have probably not seen a bed bug since World War II. Hygiene improvement in the developed countries and use of DDT and other persistent insecticides in the 1940s and 50s almost eliminated bed bugs in these countries. During the '40s and '50s bed bugs remained prevalent in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe and they are currently reappearing in the United States. Increased immigration from undeveloped countries and registration cancellations by EPA of the more effective insecticides are thought to be the reasons for renewed infestations of bed bugs in the United States.
Before a pest can be adequately treated, a person must be able to recognize their target. Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown in color, have flattened oval bodies,about 3/16 inch in length and can easily be mistaken for ticks or cockroaches.They do not fly but can move rapidly over floors, walls and ceilings.
Bed bugs normally bite people at night while they are sleeping by piercing the skin and drawing blood through an elongated beak. They feed for 3 to 10 minutes but rarely disturb the person on which they are feeding.
Adult females lay one, two or more eggs daily and during their lifetime, they lay hundreds. The eggs are white, about the size of a dust speck and when first laid, they are sticky which allows them to adhere to surfaces. Eggs hatch into nymphs which resemble the adults but are smaller, straw-colored and about the size of a pinhead. During growth of the nymphs, they molt five times before they reach maturity. A blood meal is required between molts for their growth to continue. However nymphs can go for months without feeding and adults can go a year or more.
Before bed bug infestations can be treated effectively, all of their hiding places must be located. Bed bugs are active at night and hide during the day in cracks and crevices. Initially they hide near a bed usually on the mattress, underneath the box springs, behind the headboard or in a night stand. If the bugs are not controlled soon after introduction, they move into other parts of the house and can be found behind wall-mounted picture frames and mirrors, under the edges of of wall-to-wall carpet, behind electrical switch and outlet plates, amongst clothes and clutter in closets and in clocks, televisions, telephones and smoke alarms. Hiding places are marked with dark spots or stains which are dried excrement. Usually egg shells and molted nymph skins can be seen as well.
Detection is extremely difficult and a professional pest control operator, experienced in bed bug control, should be considered. A flashlight and magnifying glass should be used in searching for bed bugs because of their size and the dark places in which they hide. A thorough search for bed bugs takes several hours.
For a successful inspection, slide all furniture away from the walls, remove and empty drawers, detach wall-mounted headboards and remove and separate all clutter and clothes from closets. Following completion of these tasks all items, surfaces, cracks and crevices are carefully examined for bed bugs. All surfaces on mattresses and seat cushions are inspected as well. Gauze coverings are pulled from the bottom of box springs to gain access for inspection.
A combination of treatment methods are required to rid a structure of bed bugs. Usually infested mattresses and couches have to be discarded. Sometimes, however, mattresses and box springs can be saved by encasing them in protective covers specifically designed for protection against bed bugs. Covers used for allergy relief also work well. If sealed properly, bed bugs inside the plastic covers will eventually die.
Infested bedding and clothing are laundered in hot water at a minimum temperature of 120 degrees F. Items such as clothing that can not be laundered, toys, shoes, and backpacks can be placed in a dryer at high heat for 10 to 20 minutes. Items, unsuitable for placement in a dryer, are sealed in plastic bags and left in the sun or a closed automobile for a full day. When items are placed in the sun, temperature is monitored to ensure that 120 degrees F or above is maintained. Items are loosely sealed in the bugs so that all surfaces are heated.
Once bed bugs have been eliminated from clothing, bedding, and others items, then the house needs to be treated. A good treatment strategy is to spray rugs, floors and baseboards with a pyrethrin such as delatmethrin or cyflutrin. These insecticides are usually applied with a garden type pump sprayer. Additionally a dust, such as a product containing pyrethrins and piperony butoxide, is blown into cracks and crevices with a bellows duster.
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