How to Avoid, Find, Get Rid of Bed Bugs, and Prevent Re-Infestations

More than 300 people have attended the second National Bedbug Summit in Washington DC in February 2011, to find solutions to a growing problem, made worse by ineffective control measures and growing resistance of the buds to pesticides. 

Experts now claim that bedbug infestations are becoming more widespread and bed bugs have become perhaps the toughest pest to control and get rid of in hotels and domestic accommodation. The insects are becoming more resistant to chemical insecticides and other treatments and can be quickly spread in customers luggage.

The summit in Washington DC was hosted by US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and included many government agencies and industry representative. Recent surveys and similar conferences recently have shown that the problem is getting worse and is causing widespread concern in the travel and accommodation industries.

Official national statistics on the numbers of bedbug infestations in the US, show that the number of cases is rising alarmingly, and more resources are being put into the problem. Infestations are spreading like wildfire both in terms of the number of locations within a community infected, and the number of suburbs, towns and cities showing outbreaks. While most cases in the US are in cities on the East Coast, there are now reports of infestations in virtually every state in America. 

This article summarizes the nature and scope of the problem and discusses ways to deal with it more efficiently. Below is a summary of the current advice.

Bed bug infestation in USA, 2011
Bed bug infestation in USA, 2011. Source: Public Domain
Bed bug infestation in New York
Bed bug infestation in New York. Source: Public Domain
Bed bug infestation in Toronto Canada
Bed bug infestation in Toronto Canada. Source: Public Domain

How to Detect Bed Bugs

Identifying a bed bug - Cimicidae (or bed bugs), are small insects that feed exclusively on blood. The most common species is Cimex lectularius. Bed bugs are quite flat and resemble a small pear shaped beetle or roach. Adults are small, about the size of an apple seed and nymphs can be as small as pin heads. Adults grow to about 4–5 mm in length (3/16 inch) and about 1.5–3 mm in width. The adults are reddish brown in color with nymphs being yellowish to clear. After feeding both adults and nymphs develop a reddish glow as they become engorged with blood. Bedbugs can survive an extraordinary range of temperatures. Below 16.1 °C (61.0 °F), adults enter semi-hibernation. Bedbugs can survive for at least five days at -10 °C (14.0 °F). They are highly tolerant to desiccation and harsh conditions. The high-temperature death point for the common species is very high at 45 °C (113 °F). All of the life stages are killed after 7 minutes at 46 °C (115 °F). 

The bed bug life cycle
The bed bug life cycle. Source: Public Domain
Adult bed bug
Adult bed bug. Source: Public Domain
Bed bug size related to that of a finger
Bed bug size related to that of a finger. Source: Public Domain
Bed bug on the skin
Bed bug on the skin. Source: Public Domain
Close up of bed bug head
Close up of bed bug head. Source: Public Domain

Bedbugs are obligatory blood feeding parasites that are attracted to their hosts primarily by the carbon dioxide in exhaled breath, and secondarily by heat, and they also use certain chemical cues. A bedbug uses two hollow tubes shaped like tongues to pierce the skin of its host. One tube is used to injects its saliva, which contains both anaesthetics and anticoagulants. The other tube is used to withdraw the blood. After sucking blood for about 5 minutes, the bug moves off and returns to its hiding place. 

It generally takes between 5 and 10 minutes for a bedbug to become fully engorged with blood. Although bedbugs can survive for about a year without feeding, they generally need a feed of blood every 5 to 10 days under most conditions. In colder climates, bedbugs can live for about 12 months; and in milder temperatures about 5 to 6 months.

Check for bites - If you have bites this is a clear sign that you have them, however many people can be bitten without showing any signs, and so tbites can be unreliable. Bed bug bites look very similar to mosquito bites, and often occur on the arms, back or legs. One unique feature of bed bug bites is that the bites often occur in rows, with three or four bites in a line.

Check the Registry - As for checking to see whether your hotel has had reports of bedbugs, see Bedbug Registry, and Bedbug Database and other sites. Travelers should also check for reports of bed bugs or infestations before checking into any hotel or motel by going to Trip Advisorand other similar sites. However this can be quite unreliable. You don't know whether the information is up to date or is reliable and complete for your area.

Bed bug hiding spots
Bed bug hiding spots. Source: Public Domain

Check for Signs - Use a flashlight when you travel to inspect the hotel room, or to inspect you own room at home. Inspect all the areas listed below methodically and carefully.

Bed bugs are a nocturnal and come out at night and drink blood from human and also other hosts like pets. The bugs will track you down from the carbon dioxide you exhale and body heat. They will generally be found quite close to where you sleep.

Trap them - While trapping bed bugs won't work as an eradication method, it can help to identify the problem very quickly, and to check for reinfestations. Take strips of double sided sticky tape and attach them to the box spring, the edges of the mattress, and on the floor next to the bed. Then check again after four to seven days. If bed bugs are present you should catch them.

Live bed bugs on bedding - Photo 1
Live bed bugs on bedding - Photo 1. Source: Public Domain
Live bed bugs on bedding - Photo 2
Live bed bugs on bedding - Photo 2. Source: Public Domain
Live bed bugs on bedding - Photo 3
Live bed bugs on bedding - Photo 3. Source: Public Domain
Live bed bugs on bedding - Photo 4
Live bed bugs on bedding - Photo 4. Source: Public Domain
Bed bug bites on the face
Bed bug bites on the face. Source: Public Domain
Bed bug bites on the body
Bed bug bites on the body. Source: Public Domain

How to Avoid Getting Bed Bugs in Your Home or Apartment

How to Get Rid of Bedbugs in Your Home

The best advice is to call an experienced a bed bug Pest Management Professional IMMEDIATELY. There are many ways that you can get rid of bed bugs but usually using an exterminator is the best way to go.

Non-Chemical Treatment Methods for Bed Bugs

Take all possible measures to prevent the infestation from happening again!