Until recently, people outside the pest control industry may have thought that the saying “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” was an old wive’s tale and that bed bugs did not, in fact, even exist. And considering the rarity of bed bug infestations, even if they did know this pest actually existed, they certainly didn’t know much about it.
But over the last several years, one of your itchiest nightmares may have come true – there may be bugs in bed with you. And, sorry to say, they’re hungry. And, even sorrier to say, YOU are dinner.
‘We’ve been getting a lot of questions about bedbugs,” said Chris Arne, who is an entomologist Ehrlich Pest Control. “Even if they don’t think they have a problem, people are just very curious about this pest.”
People have good reason to be curious. An ancient insect whose roots are thought to go back to the times of cave dwellers, bedbugs were found in numerous communities around the US years ago. As late as the 1950's, bedbugs were a considerable problem. After the discovery of DDT and its application here, the incidence of bedbug infestations declined, but over the past several years, this pest has reemerged with a vengeance. It’s estimated that bedbug calls have increased 500% nationwide since 1999.
What started out as a pest found in US metro hotels due to increased international travel has spread to spread into suburban homes. “At this point, we’re seeing a pretty even split between homes and hotels,” said Arne.
But whether you blame it on increased international travel, recycled mattresses, less effective pesticides or the mattress company who delivered your new mattress in the same truck they use to remove infested mattresses, the “why” doesn’t really matter when you’re being eaten alive in your own bed. The only thing that matters is how to get rid of them…for good.
But getting rid of these nocturnal nymphs is no easy task, according to the specialists at Ehrlich. The bedbug is a formidable pest problem. Its impact on people is substantial and debilitating. Bedbugs bite the host most commonly around the waist while in bed, sleeping. However, bites may occur on exposed skin such as arms and legs.
After biting, they scurry into mattress tufts, bed frames, moldings, floor joints, picture frames and in any other crack or crevice they may find. The sole source of food is the blood meal that they take at night while the victim sleeps. When the victim awakes, the only sign of bedbugs is the telltale bite and/or blood on the sheets. The bedbug bite leaves a nasty, red welt that is not easily dismissed and can cause more severe problems for hypersensitive individuals.
One problem is that bedbugs are extremely secretive. “It really requires a trained professional to find their hiding spots,” said Arne. “Although they like to stay close to the food, we find them hiding in electrical outlets, alarm clocks, cracks in hardwood floors, side tables and even rooms adjoining the bed room. And despite the “bed” in their name, this pest has also been known to infest upholstered furniture such as couches.”
Complicating the situation is that an infestation is often symptomless at first – people don’t realize they have them until well established. Arne stresses that while bedbug control is best left to the professionals, it’s a job that requires cooperation between the pest control company and the home – or should we say – bed owner.
“A company like Ehrlich will come in and do a pretty extensive series of treatments,” says Arne, “but we ask the customer for help.” For instance, all bed linens must be bagged (to prevent spreading insects through the house) and washed in hot water. Mattresses, floors and furniture must be vacuumed frequently. ”We’re hearing stories of people just throwing out mattresses and couches. In most cases, we can educate people so that they don’t have to bear that type of expense.”
“Bedbugs are treatable, but is definitely not a pest to be taken lightly,” said Arne. “Call a professional even if you just suspect a problem. Most pest control companies offer a complimentary inspection. It’s worth it.”