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- General Information about bed bugs
- How to prevent bed bug infestations
- Recongnizing bed bug bites
- How to identify and collect bed bugs
- How to control bed bugs
- Frequently Asked Questions
Bed bugs (Cimex Lectularius) are found throughout the world. The number of bed bugs is significantly increasing all throughout North America, in particularly New York.
No one truly understands the reason behind the increasing number of bed bugs in North America. The common belief is that the increase of bed bugs is due to reduction in the use of urban pesticides, the more extensive world travel of different cultures, and the growing resiliency to pesticides. This sudden increase in bed bugs infestations in New York and Long Island has resulted in anxiety among the public, increased negative exposure of the hotel industry and a need to educate public health officials and pest control professionals on safe and effective control measures.
To complicate matters, there is a small group of related blood sucking bugs in the family Cimicidae including bat bugs and swallow bugs that can be confused with bed bugs. It is important to identify the species of bed bug because of their different habits. Proper identification determines where to direct controls to be most effective. For example, bat bugs (Cimex pilosellus) look similar to bed bugs, but control efforts must involve elimination of bats from a structure to be effective.
During the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of bed bug infestations reported from homes, resort hotels, apartments, universities and cruise ships. Over time, as society becomes more experienced in recognizing bed bug infestations early, and professional pest control companies gain expertise in control, bed bug infestations in communities should decline. This web site is intended to assist you to prevent infestations, understand the identification of bed bugs, recognize the symptoms of bed bug bites, and learn the treatment of bed bugs if your dwelling becomes infested.
1. HOW TO PREVENT BED BUG INFESTATIONS
Bed bugs are constantly being transported in luggage, bedding and other items. Once transported to a residence, bed bugs may live anywhere in the house, and they will feed on a human's blood at night. Many individuals are worried about bringing home bed bugs from their traveling. Although it is not as common to transport bed bugs as one may expect, there are special considerations that one should follow to minimize the probability of introducing bed bugs into your home.
- During travel, before you go to sleep, check the mattress. Carefully remove the sheets and examine the head section of the bed. Look at the seams of the mattress as well as both sides of the head board. If you see any small bugs in these locations, they are most likely bed bugs.
- Bringing your favorite pillow on vacation may increase your chances of transporting bed bugs back to your home. If you wish to bring a pillow, make sure it is enclosed in a bed bug sealed bag.
- Remember not to place your luggage near the head of the bed. This makes it accessible for the bed bugs and thus, it will be more likely for you to bring them home. Try to store your luggage as far away from the bed as possible.
- If you see bed bugs or happen to be bitten by a bed bug, please contact hotel management, so that they can take care of it. If not, another unlucky vacationer will come across the same problem.
- Do not bring mattresses, head boards, or other bedroom furniture into your home unless you are first confident that bed bugs are not hiding in them.
- If you have visitors coming to stay with you, ask them not to bring their own pillows and bedroom furniture. If they insist on bringing it, make sure that they do not have bed bugs in their own house.
If you are bitten by bed bugs during your travels, whether in a hotel, private residence or on public transportation, it is not likely that you will bring these bed bugs home if you follow the steps outlined above. In many cases, the itches from bites are delayed until the next day, and you may incorrectly assume that you have transported bed bugs. Since bed bugs bite at night and hide by day, just entering an infested area during the day is not cause for alarm.
2. RECOGNIZING BED BUG BITES
Frequently, the first evidence of the presence of bed bugs is the sudden appearance of very itchy bites on your torso. It is important to seek medical attention if bites alone are the only evidence of bed bugs. Dermatologists may recognize skin rashes, allergies and other conditions that are not insect bites.
There are several other insects and arthropods that will produce itchy welts very similar to bed bug bites. This is because mosquitoes, fleas, lice, mites and bed bugs all inject saliva during the feeding process into thin human blood. This anti-coagulant material is largely responsible for the "itchiness" of bites. An individual's skin response to different insect and arthropod saliva may become either more or less affected over time.
3. HOW TO IDENTIFY AND COLLECT BED BUGS
Even though bed bugs are only about 1/5 of an inch, they can be readily seen with the naked eye. Immature bed bugs are light yellow in color unless they have recently fed on blood, in which case they are darker in the middle. After a recent feeding, you can almost see the red color of blood inside. As the blood ages, it darkens and a small quantity of undigested blood is excreted onto surfaces such as bed sheets, mattresses and other surfaces. Adults are reddish brown, and they too darken after a blood meal. They are wingless, oval and flattened in appearance and crawl at a steady rate.
Bed bugs are active at night. During the day, they rest in places deep inside cracks and crevices to seek out human blood. If bed bugs are seen during the day, it usually means that their hiding location has been disturbed, they have contacted a pesticide, or they are very hungry and are desperately seeking a blood meal. Adult male and female bed bugs, as well as nymphs (young), feed on blood. By checking the bed linen in the middle of the night, you have the best opportunity to find bed bugs on the move. Bed bug bites are normally two or three in a row and often blood spots are deposited on the sheeting. Any nearby crack or crevice can serve as a daytime refuge for bed bugs. Look for bed bugs under folds in mattresses, along seams and in between bedposts and bed slats. Other places to look for bed bugs during the day include behind baseboards, in night stands, inside pillow cases and inside any piece of furniture that is located adjacent to the bed. When large numbers of bed bugs are present, they produce a distinctive pungent odor. Numerous dark fecal spots on linen or near cracks are another indication of a bed bug infestation. If only one or two bed bugs are found, it is difficult to estimate how many other bed bugs are in hiding. Large infestations of bed bugs have a tendency to disperse to other locations in the building, especially if the host person vacates their room for a period of time.
There are no simple traps available that will reliably trap bed bugs. Conventional sticky traps for common insects that crawl inside rooms are usually only effective if the bed bug infestation is very large. Not only are very light infestations of bed bugs difficult to recognize, but the elimination of all bed bugs in a room is equally difficult to measure. The lack of bed bug bites is often the best tool we have to show that control efforts have succeeded.
Bed bugs should be collected into small leak-proof containers of rubbing or other alcohol. Clear sticky tape is also a good way to capture individuals for later identification. Bed bug specimens should be sent to a knowledgeable expert for positive identification. There are many other small insects that could be mistaken for bed bugs and experience shows that only a small percentage of specimens sent in for identification are actually bed bugs. Dr. Richard Pollack at the Harvard School of Public Health can identify bed bugs sent in from Harvard University. Take a look at the Bed Bug Training Slides at the beginning of this web page for a series of photographs of different stages of bed bugs and bed bug evidence. There is also the image gallery at the top of this page to give you an idea of the diversity of bed bug images.
After feeding, a female bed bug will lay eggs in their daytime refuge of cracks and crevices. Each egg is whitish in color and flask-shaped. These eggs are visible to the human eye and can be found close to the hiding places of immature bed bugs, under seams of mattresses and in other similar places. An immature bed bug may take several months to mature to an adult and an adult bed bug can live for up to one year. During development, the young bed bug will feed frequently on the blood of humans. They can exist for many months between blood meals. This means it is not practical to starve bed bugs by staying away for short periods of time. Instead this activity may serve to spread bed bugs more quickly in a facility.
Bed bugs inject saliva into the blood stream of their host to thin the blood and to prevent coagulation. It is this saliva that causes the intense itching and welts. The delay in the onset of itching gives the feeding bed bug time to escape into cracks and crevices. In some cases, the itchy bites can develop into painful welts that last several days. The good news is that this insect is not known to transmit human disease. There is considerable individual variation in the response to bed bug bites. Some individuals may respond less to the bites over time while others may increase in their reaction to bed bug bites. This makes it difficult to identify the exact date when bed bugs first appear since bites are usually the first clue that bed bugs are present.
Spiders, fleas, mites, ticks, mosquitoes or even lice can also cause itchy bites, and these pests require different control methods. There may also be cases where what appears to be a bed bug or other insect bite is not caused by bed bugs or other pests at all. Until a bed bug is positively identified by a knowledgeable expert, it is not recommended to treat a dwelling for bed bugs. The addition of pesticides in the sleeping rooms of individuals is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly.
5. HOW TO CONTROL BED BUGS
The first step in control is to eliminate the possibility of bed bugs physically climbing over a mattress or bed to feed. Pull the bed away from shelving or the wall and coat the legs of the bed with a band of Vaseline or mineral oil with a band about 2 inches wide. Use effective means to prevent or exclude bed bugs from the sleeping area. This could include keeping a zone around the bed "bed bug-free" by careful examination and removal of bed bugs with a stiff brush and vacuum. You can also caulk cracks and place a barrier of chalk or silica aerogel around the bed posts at floor level. Double-sided carpet tape may be effective in trapping bed bugs and excluding them from sleeping areas. Clear sticky tape is a good way to capture individuals for later identification.
In New York, Gentrol is a registered pesticides for bed bug control that can be applied by professional pest control. Gentrol contains the active ingredient (S)-Hydroprene, an insect growth regulator (IGR) that disrupts the normal growth and development of cockroaches and stored product pests, drain flies and fruit flies, as well as bed bugs.
Rather than replacing one mattress with another that is also likely to become infested, consider encasing the mattress with a bed bug tight cover. Bed bugs inside the cover will be unable to feed and will die out.
Do not bring used furniture into the home unless it can be visually inspected in side and out as bed bug free. It is important not to abandon infested furniture and mattresses without first marking them as infested with bed bugs.
6. FREQUENTLY AKSED QUESTIONS
Question: Can I bring bed bugs home on my shoes?
Answer: Unlikely. Bed bugs are active at night. During the day, they are hiding in cracks and crevices. Bed bugs are more likely to be spread via pillows, mattresses, bed linen and bedroom furniture.
Question: How can I determine if my bites are caused by bed bugs?
Answer: Itchy bites can be caused by mites, mosquitoes, fleas and lice. To be absolutely sure, you need to collect a bed bug specimen and have it identified by an expert.
You can search the Internet for additional information under the bed bug's scientific name, Cimex Lectularius L. Please also refer to the Harvard School of Public Health for more information on bed bugs (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/bedbugs/).
Above: This is a first instar bed bug nymph highly magnified. This nymph just emerged from the egg and has not yet fed on human blood. Because this tiny nymph is clear in color and is only 1mm long (1/24th of an inch), it can barely be seen with the naked eye. The light yellow is the color of the sticky trap showing through the clear body of the bed bug nymph.
Bed bug adult females lay many eggs over their life span, which lasts about one year. Females attach their eggs to surfaces using "adhesive glue" that coats the outer surface of each egg. A female may lie from 1 to 5 eggs per day and more than 200 eggs during her lifetime. Eggs are commonly laid within small cracks and crevices. It takes from 7 to 17 days for the eggs to hatch, depending upon the temperature. As soon as the nymph exits the egg, it is ready for a blood meal.
First instar nymphs have already hatched from these eggs.
An individual egg is white in color and tubular or flask-shaped with the exit hole at the smaller end of the flask. You can see these eggs with the naked eye, and they are often found under the seams of mattresses. Note: If these eggs are missed during pest control measures, the nymphs inside will hatch and proceed to feed on their hosts.
The immature stage of a bed bug is called a nymph. There are five instars or molts as each nymph develops in successive stages towards becoming an adult. At each stage, the nymph feeds on blood.
As the nymph goes through its five molts, it leaves behind its cast skin or exuvium. This cast skin or shell is light in color and is often found near the "nest" or bed bug gathering place.
A bed bug nymph may be able to survive for several weeks or even months between blood meals. This means that if nymphs are present behind walls, they can emerge later and feed on hosts. Note: It also means that leaving a room vacant for several weeks will not starve out bed bugs. Bed bugs travel from place to place by crawling through cracks in walls; they are not carried on a person's shoes or clothes.
Bed bugs do not transmit diseases in nature. They penetrate the skin with sharp beak-like mouth parts that are bundled as two ventral tubes. First they inject saliva down one tube to thin the blood. Intense itching results from an individual response to the injection of saliva. They then pump up the blood using their other tube. Feeding lasts several minutes and bed bugs may bite again a few inches away from the first bite location. All stages of nymphs and both males and females take blood.
Reactions to bed bug bites
The locations of bites are on exposed parts of the body while the host is sleeping. Welts are often a more severe reaction that develops over time to frequent bites. Some individuals show almost no response to the bites of bed bugs while others have a severe reaction of itching and welts. It is difficult to be sure that bites are from bed bugs without collecting a sample of a bed bug specimen.
- All life stages are wingless.
- Bed bugs produce a distinctive sweet smell.
- Bed bug stains are from fecal deposits.
- Traveling away from home and carrying bed and linen items back precede many infestations.
- Many other small bugs are easily mistaken for bed bugs.
- Sticky traps are not very effective.
- Entomologists can identify bed bugs correctly.
- There are several kinds of bed bugs, some of which feed on bats, while others feed on birds.
The challenge is to detect an infestation early and to begin control measures before bed bugs have spread. There is no easy way to trap and survey for the presence of bed bugs. Other than a visual inspection for signs of bed bugs, including the presence of bites, there is no trap or device currently in use that is effective in early detection of bed bugs. The best survey trap we have is the host.
To get an estimate on how much it would cost for us to eliminate your bed bugs in New York or Long Island, please call us today or fill out the form to the left.
Our Certified K9 Teams (The Bed Bug Sniffing Beagles)
Scout is the only certified bed bug sniffing canine on Long Island. Scout was certified by the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association (NESDCA). Before he came here, Scout went through rigorous training in Florida to become one of the best bed bug sniffing dogs in the world. Even the most experienced human detector will have trouble finding bed bugs. They are considered to be one of the most challenging pests to find and control. This is why having a bed bug sniffing dog is so important to a successful extermination.
Scout has been trained to sniff out bed bugs wherever they may be located. Usually, bed bugs nest in any soft material. However, they can nest anywhere in a room. The name 'bed bug' derives from the fact that they traditionally nest in beds or any other soft materials where people sleep. They can also nest in untraditional areas, such as back seat cushions or seats in a movie theatre. It is Scout's job to find all the nesting areas of bed bugs, whether they are traditional or untraditional. He sniffs them out, just like a bomb dog.