Effective Strategies for Eliminating Bed Bugs Amidst Growing Infestations

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As summer treks on and travel among Americans continues to climb, an unwelcome visitor also is taking advantage of the warmer weather: bed bugs.

Entomologists say bed bugs appear to be surging as more people take trips that got sidelined during the pandemic.

“This is a unique year because we’re seeing such a huge surge and resurgence in travel activity,” said Michael Bentley, director of training and education at the National Pest Management Association. “Bed bugs are incredibly effective travelers just like we are. As we evolved to travel around the world, bed bugs evolved to travel with us.”

Bed bug “season” is generally considered to be between the end of spring and early November, but that isn’t representative of when these pests are most active, just when people start noticing.

Bed bugs crawl around in a container in 2011.

While bed bugs don’t typically spread disease, they can cause rashes that irritate the skin and can trigger allergic reactions, as well as cause psychological and in some cases financial stress.

Here’s how to keep yourself and your house safe from bed bugs this summer.

How to identify bed bugs

Aptly named, bed bugs are most likely to be found in areas like mattresses and bed frames, as well as other cracks or crevices in a house. It’s typically said that if a crevice is small enough to hold a credit card, it also could hide a bed bug.

Bed bugs also can find refuge in electrical sockets, cracks in a wall or even cars.

An individual bug is typically the size of an apple seed, around a quarter to three-eighths of an inch, with an ovular body. Their color is largely determined by the last time the bug has fed and ranges from dark red to brownish color.

Bed bug excrement typically creates small dark spots on furniture cloth

Dark spots found on furniture could be bed bug excrement, and small eggshells and pale-yellow skins typically are left by nymphs as they grow.

Bed bugs feed on blood from humans and other mammals and primarily are active at night. They can remain active in temperatures as low as 46 degrees Fahrenheit and die at temperatures around 113 degrees.

How to prevent bed bugs

Bed bugs are great at hiding, which is why regular cleaning and clutter removal can help limit places where the bugs can occupy.

Buying sealed encasements for mattresses and box springs also will keep populations of bed bugs from moving or infesting the material in the first place. Any bedding that’s brought into your house also should be inspected and washed before use.

Chemical treatments are available in stores that can be used to prevent infestations, like aerosols and dust applied in cracks and crevices around the house.

Delaware does not have any protections for renters whose residences become infested, but contacting a landlord and collaborating on a treatment plan is considered the best practice.

What to (not) do with bed bug infestations

Bedbugs colony on the matress cloth macro. Disgusting blood-sucking insects. Adult insects, larvae and eggs. Traces of vital activity of the insects.

Consumer pesticides typically are ineffective in wiping out bed bug populations, so calling a professional is the best practice to take if you suspect your home’s been infested with bed bugs. Professional treatments sometimes involve steam cleaning or heat treatments that may take up to eight hours.  

It’s not recommended to dispose of infested items, which can cause the populations to migrate. However, in multifamily homes, disposal is sometimes the safest option. A pest control specialist can help determine what method is the best for your situation.

Monitors and traps are available at stores, from simple plastic tray arrangements to chemical baiting and electronic devices that work to draw and trap the bugs.

While professional treatments are effective in wiping out certain populations, they don’t always guarantee infestations won’t come back.

Experts also assure that a bed bug infestation is not indicative of a “dirty” lifestyle, as people often pick them up when traveling.  

Contact Molly McVety at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @mollymcvety.

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