When Bedbugs Bite
Growing up as a kid I would hear the old saying, "Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite." Unfortunately, today that phrase has new meaning for more travelers and homeowners.
What are bedbugs?
Bedbugs are a small parasitic insect that have seen resurgence in the last few years.
This year I have had more calls from homeowners, travelers, and moms sending kids off to college with reports of bedbugs. If you are unfamiliar with bedbugs, they require a blood meal before each molt or change in life stage. Both nymphs and adults can live for months without feeding, and although they prefer humans, they can feed on other warm-blooded animals such as dogs, cats, and rodents.
How do I find bedbugs?
Because bedbugs feed at night and hide during the day, they can be very difficult to find and control.
During early stages of infestations, bedbugs are most commonly found in or near the bed, so inspections should begin by examining the mattress, bed frame, and headboard. Because these insects are small and secretive, they are difficult to see unless the bed is dismantled, and a flashlight is used. Adults and nymphs can be seen with the naked eye but eggs require magnification.
As infestations increase, the bugs may move away from the bed into other furniture, under loose wallpaper, in cracks and crevices along floorboards, under the edge of carpeting, switch plates and outlets, and even inside phones, clocks, and smoke detectors. One pest control operator shared that after dismantling an apartment and believing they had checked everywhere for bedbugs, they found more under a lamp base that had been left on a table.
How do I prevent a bedbug infestation?
It's worth the effort to try and prevent bedbugs before an infestation starts. Consider some of these ideas:
- Be cautious of bringing any second hand furniture or clothing into the home. Inspect and consider a freezing treatment by placing in a deep freeze for a few days.
- When possible, clothing should be laundered in hot soapy water and dried immediately in a hot dryer to eliminate the introduction of these pests into the home.
- Travelers can help prevent distribution of bedbugs by inspecting bedding before use for signs of bugs along seams of mattresses and box springs. Keep suitcases elevated on luggage stands, which can prevent entry into luggage.
If you do discover bedbugs at home, it may be a wise choice to consider professional help by calling in an exterminator. Inspection and control can be quite challenging, and control options that include specialized freezing or heating equipment are not likely available to homeowners. You can help by making sure all clutter is cleaned up, and using the vacuum to keep carpets, baseboards and other areas as clean as possible.
Educate yourself by reading the latest information on bedbugs. The resources posted to the right should be helpful.
If you need help with bedbug identification, feel free to contact me, Jessica Barnett, with the Johnson County Extension office at Jessica.Barnett@jocogov.org or call 913-715-7000.