Assault on Bed Bugs
Much ado about bed bugs
I remember a time when I was much younger while visiting family in a small town somewhere in KY, I would complain about itching and feeling something on me while in bed, and other family members just laughed and said “oh, it’s only bed bugs”.
As an adult after having designed only the deadliest and most offensive assault on the little blood sucking critters (not my first word for them). I cringe at the idea of “only bed bugs”. Nothing can leave one feeling hopeless and heeby geebyish (is that even a word?) any more than bed bugs. This coming from one who spent 10 years as a ‘bug lady’, that I can honestly say I did not see a bed bug for the entire duration.
Sometime in the 70's the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), bed bugs were pretty much under control by then. In the past 20 years bed bugs have made a come back, with a vengeance. Are the bugs smarter? Are we ignoring the signs?
TELLTALE SIGNS OF BED BUGS
Bite marks generally a red area, most times on more tender skin they are raised. Mild to moderate itching. Unlike mosquitoes that bite and fly away, bed bugs will leave a 'line' of marks as in 'feeding frenzy'. Generally young tender skin is affected much more than the older, tougher skin.
Stains they leave behind from blood and feces. Stains from their excrement are a rusty color that is difficult to remove from linens and bedding. Once bed bugs get 'comfortable' that is they see frequent washing of bedding is not a priority, you may see patches of these stains, along where the mattress and box spring meet or at the opening of a bed skirt.
Cast skins bed bugs cast their skin each time they grow. The life cycle of a bed bug involves the egg, instar nymph (there are 5 stages of instar nymphs, each requiring a blood meal and shedding of the skin) the skins will vary in size, then the dreaded adult, this is the one that lays more eggs. FUN!
Blood stains may be seen on a pillowcase, or fitted sheet, at first you think you must have scratched something in your sleep, chances are, if you have bedbugs, it’s a dead one, they sort of disappear in a pool of blood after it's been feeding most of the night.
BED BUG LODGING
Once they have settled in, a box spring will be among their favorite and most convenient of living and breeding space. Close to the 'kitchen', yup that would be the mattress, and you as the main course.
Eggs can be laid in the smallest of spaces, pillow and mattress seams are convenient however don’t forget the frame, stuffed animals, junk under the bed. Yes bed bugs will set up housekeeping in a box, or even a under-the-bed-plastic container. Not to mention the headboard, night stand or under your favorite lamp.
Once an infestation has taken off, some of the critters are forced to stay in some of the most undesirable areas such as that box of papers in the corner, up in the ceiling seam, behind wall mounted pictures and behind baseboards.
Bed bugs can camp out anywhere, in and around a chest of drawers or a dresser wouldn’t be uncommon.
In and around dog bedding, cat claw tree, or a pets favorite resting spot, convenient and ground level.
OTHER FUN FACTS ABOUT BED BUGS
Extreme heat or cold, temperatures above 120 degrees or below freezing will kill bed bugs and flush them out, steaming is very effective. Turning the heat up, or the air conditioning down won't work. Place bed items loosely in a large bag, seal and place in a sunny spot outside for 24 hours. Aerosol dust remover actually gets very cold and could be used to flush, however could also be pricey.
Bed Bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide in the air around warm-blooded creatures while they sleep, vitamin B1 may help to cover the odor of carbon dioxide when we exhale.
An adult bed bug closely resembles an apple seed and about the same size, an engorged bed bug is slightly elongated resembling a capsule. A nymph of any stage may not be visible to the naked eye prior to a feeding.
Bed bugs are crawlers rather than jump onto their hosts. Fleas jump bed bugs crawl, and I have seen them crawling at a nice little pace.
Bed bugs have a life span of about 9 months to a year. They can go without a blood meal for about 5-6 months.
A female can lay about 5 eggs per day, taking about 2 weeks to hatch. Once hatched, the nymphs begin feeding immediately and the cornerstone to a full-fledged infestation has been laid.
Closely related to the flea, bed bug eggs can lay dormant for months, for example in an empty apartment or hotel room. Once a meal walks in the door, the eggs hatch and well, you know the rest of the story from there.
This is not a proven, however, I have found dead bed bugs on and around the cat bedding (I personally treat the cat with Assurity flea control drops that kills fleas after feeding). Available at your Veterinarians office.
At first sight of bed bugs, elimination is the immediate task at hand.What you will need:
Steamer: A steamer the 'Shark professional steamer' I purchased for $50.00 at Walmart, is great at 'flushing' out bed bugs. Also I used it to clean and sanitize inside the dresser drawers and chest of drawers. Used along the seams of the mattress, especially used at the corners of the box spring, on the bottom side (where the materials are gathered). Behind wall hangings (test a corner for any potential damage).
Bedding covers: Whether the bed bug/dust mite proof covers or the basic vinyl zippered covers, you need them. I have found that Aller-Ease Durable Microfiber Waterproof Mattress and Pillow Covers to be cost efficient and it 'works like a charm'. You will need enough to cover all pieces of bedding, mattresses and box springs in each bedroom even and especially if you haven't 'seen' them in other rooms. Prevention is the key. If you have young children, keeping bugs quarantined is nearly impossible.
Vacuum cleaner for nearly every surface in your home, wet/dry vac works well on corners, baseboards, bed frames, and under the box springs, the mattress seams, top and bottom, in and around dressers, night stands, behind heavy furniture, ceiling seams and behind picture frames. Suck up the creatures you can see and more important, the ones you can't. Remember to throw out your bag or empty your canister frequently, spray lightly with alcohol in the canister while not in use.
Isopropyl Alcohol, yes rubbing alcohol, inexpensive and kills them on contact. Keep a spray bottle handy in case the little buggers try to flee the crime scene. Also helps to keep the heebie jeebies away. Spray a bed and pillows before getting in, if nothing else, the psychological effects are taken care of.
Wash sheets, comfortors, pillows, bed skirts, stuffed animals and throw covers. Include any favorite blankies, woobies or what ever they're called in your house. When stripping the bedclothes fold sides towards the middle and keep folding, to keep anything that could be alive inside. Most important: take to a laundry mat and wash in hot water, drying on high, the standard commercial dryer reaches temps well over 140 degrees, making sure to kill any eggs, or nymphs that may have survived the wash.
Bed bug spray and fogger by Hot Shot. Use the spray under the box springs prior to sealing it in the zippered cover. Spray freshly vacuumed bed frames and base boards and carpet along the base boards. Fog while your at the laundry mat, for any areas that may have been missed.
REPEAT I cannot stress this enough, repeat the washing of sheets in hot water, the vacuuming about every 4-5 days. Frequent inspections are necessary to stay ahead of this game. Bed bugs eat when they need a blood meal, they travel on your clothes, toys, blankets, and clean clothes. They do not discriminate how they travel, who's blood they eat or where they breed.
Sightseeing bed bugs, traveling alone
Bed bugs are world wide travelers. Now that the summer months are here and we are all traveling, do so with care. Upon arrival, inspect your room, remove sheets, check between mattress and springs, behind headboards. If you find any of the little critters, or signs of them, go to the office immediately and request another room. DO NOT put your luggage on a bed. When I am traveling, I pack separately for the 1 night I will be in a hotel, using a plastic beach bag type and I place the bag on the vanity or in the tub upon arrival. Using the jumbo ziplock bags for our dirties, then wash as soon as we arrive at our destination.
Be prepared when dealing with bed bugs, clean everything. Using extreme hot water on bed coverings, Clean around and under the bed and encase the mattress, box springs and pillows. Arm yourself with the essentials: bed bug spray, alcohol, steamer and foggers for good measure. Monitor the situation and do it all again, until next time, sleep tight and well...you know the rest of the saying.