The Bed Bug Pandemic

Posted on November 17, 2011 by

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Stages in the Life Cycle of a Bed Bug

Throughout the world, humans are struggling with a small wingless parasitic insect called a bed bug. Bed bugs are no longer mythical and have again risen in all 50 states. But before I completely repulse those brave enough to read this blog post, I should explain the difference between epidemic and pandemic. An epidemic affects a a group of individuals within a region. A pandemic affects a group of individuals within an exceptionally large area and in this instance, worldwide. Bed bugs are a pandemic. You will know if you are encountering this pandemic if you see pepper like fecal stains around the mattress of your bed, headboards, picture frames, and electrical outlets. Shed skins from the molting stage of their life cycle will also be visible in the most commonly infested areas around the beds, couches, and chairs. If any of these signs sound familiar, call a pest management professional for an inspection.

Eradicating these insects is not an easy task. A pest management professional is necessary and expensive. Many pest professionals have not dealt with bed bugs in their career until the recent outbreak because they were wiped out in the U.S. for nearly 50 years due to the insecticides and pesticides utilized. Today, those potent chemicals are restricted and banned. This has allowed for the bed bugs to not only surge, but thrive. These blood sucking insects have even sparked every level of government to create new public policy on bed bugs to abolish the “red coats” of the insect world.

Bed bugs should not be equated with sanitation or hygiene. Persons of any race, class, or location are at risk for exposure. Many who stay in hotels are shocked with an infestation in their home because bed bugs ended up in their suitcases. They are expert hitchhikers due to their highly sensitive attraction to the human pheromone. Clothes that have been worn all day are soaked in human scent and when thrown in a suitcase or hamper, bed bugs scurry to the laundry when they pick up on the pheromone. When you are ready to depart, you zip up your suitcase and head for home. Transmission of these true bugs is as easy as going on vacation, visiting friends and family, or enjoying a movie at a local theater. To avoid bed bugs while traveling, take these precautionary measures.

College students are at high risk for acquiring bed bugs in their living quarters. Since most college students live in dorms or apartment complexes, it is very easy to end up with an infestation. Apartment style housing gives bed bugs the opportunity to travel through wall voids and electrical outlets to a smorgasbord of hosts. The National Pest Management Association has recommended a few prevention tips for college students.

  • Fully inspect your suitcases prior to re-packing for a return to school, especially if you have traveled during the summer. Be sure that any clothes that may have been previously packed in the suitcase have been washed in hot water.
  • Before putting your sheets on your dormitory bed, inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs. If you see anything suspect, immediately contact a university facility manager.
  • If you are considering bringing “secondhand” furniture to campus, properly inspect it to ensure that a pest problem, such as bed bugs, is not the reason for its “secondhand” status. If you see anything suspect, do not bring it to your dorm, apartment or house.

Since I am a pest control technician, I come across these pests frequently. It is imperative in the case of an infestation to call a pest professional to do a thorough inspection. Trained dogs are even available to ‘sniff out’ an infestation. When a customer is inquiring information about bed bugs, I cannot help but give them a few freaky facts about the vampire like parasites. A few of those facts are that bed bugs can live up to one year without a blood meal. The hatchlings are so small they can pass through a stitch-hole in a mattress so no mattress or couch is bug proof. I always try to comfort the customer by letting them know that bed bugs do not carry disease, unlike mosquitoes. All bed bug bites differ from person to person so not even a dermatologist would be able to determine what caused the inflammation or bump. Today, “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” takes on a whole new meaning. For more information visit All Things Bed Bugs or contact me at carrcamp@iusb.edu.

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