Bed Bug Prevention
Bed bug infestation typically begins with immature females or adult males that enter a new area in search of food. If human hosts are located, then more bed bugs will follow. This is known as ‘introduction’. Infestation is usually triggered as soon as the bed bugs reproduce and females are able to lay eggs throughout their new home.
Bed bugs are drawn to tight, enclosed spaces, such as cracks in floors and walls, closets and the undersides of mattresses. Places where they dwell and breed are known as ‘harborage areas’. According to PestWorld’s 2015 ‘Bugs Without Borders‘ survey, 99.6% of pest professionals say they responded to at least one bed bug complaint that year. Respondents noted that they are most likely to detect bed bugs in the following environments:
- Apartments and condominiums
- Single-family homes
- Hotels and motels
- Nursing homes and care facilities
- College campus housing
- Office buildings
- Daycare centers
- Hospitals and clinics
- Buses, taxis and other forms of public transportation
Recognizing evidence of bed bug infestation is crucial for controlling and exterminating these resilient pests. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), warning signs of an active bed bug presence include:
- Live bed bugs
- Unhatched bed bug eggs, which are small white encasements roughly 1mm in length
- Molted skins cast off during the instar stages, which are usually fragmented with a translucent appearance
- Fecal stains on bedsheets, carpet and other surfaces located near the primary harborage area(s)
- Bed bug bites leave raised, red bumps on the skin that produce a severe itch for several days.
Many people use bite marks to identify bed bugs, as well. However, the NPMA notes that many insects and other pests cause bites similar to that of a bed bug. Those who suspect a bed bug infestation based on bites should also look for the other warning signs listed above.
In many cases, travelers unwittingly transport bed bugs after returning from a trip. Overnight stays in hotels, motels and other lodgings have also been linked to bed bug introduction. Travelers should carefully check their shoes, luggage and other personal items for bed bug warning signs before bringing them into their home. They should also wash all clothing and dry in a hot setting for at least 30 minutes. Those traveling within the U.S. can take an extra precaution by visiting the Bed Bug Registry prior to their trip; this database features every recent bed bug complaint at hotels, motels and other lodging accommodations across the country.
Other common sources of bed bugs include used clothing and furniture. Any used items should be inspected before they are purchased. As an added precaution, wash all used clothes and dry them on a hot setting before wearing them for the first time; avoid trying on used garments in stores, if possible.
Many preventive techniques can be used to curb the introduction and/or spread of bed bugs. Home and property owners are encouraged to exercise the following precautions:
- Mend all cracks, fissures and other openings in the walls and flooring that often serve as bed bug harborage areas.
- Seal windows, baseboards and other points of entry bed bugs may use.
- Regularly wash and dry all sheets, pillowcases and other bed linens. Also check mattress seams and grooves for bed bug warning signs on a consistent basis.
- While on the road, it’s important to keep personal items off of hotel and motel floors; be sure to utilize luggage racks and closet hangers for all clothing.
- Tidy up cluttered areas around the house. If possible, refrain from storing anything under beds.
Finally, the NPIC discourages the use of pesticides as a bed bug prevention method. Studies have found that residues and other substances are not effective deterrents; pesticides must be sprayed directly onto live bed bugs in order to exterminate them.