“Night, night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the Bed bugs bite” was something my mama said to me every night after saying my “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. I never for a moment thought that one day I would be instructing my customers, students and peers on how to eradicate this blood sucking pest from their lives. You see, in the first 23 years of my Pest Control Career we never had do deal with the first case of Bed bugs! No, not even one. These days, however, we deal with them on a daily basis! I went to a Bed Bug symposium about 4 years ago, and Dr. Phil Koehler, from the University of Florida in Gainesville, predicted that this would be reaching epidemic proportions in the next few years. HE WAS SPOT ON!
We started hearing stories about Bed bug infestations in New York followed by a flurry of National news stories about hotel guests being bitten while staying at large moderately priced hotel chains. It has now become a huge problem facing every state in America, including every race and nationality, with little or no regard to one’s socio-economic status. It is out of control. Bed bug populations are infesting five-star luxury hotels as well as their low cost, run down counterparts. They are in homes, schools, dormitories, airports, cruise ships, in public transportation, movie theatres, laundromats…”planes, trains and automobiles!” No one is exempt from a hitchhiking female Bed bug! NO ONE! a single pregnant female that is transferred to a new location via clothes, purses, suitcases, used bedding or furniture can cause an infestation in YOUR home.
Bed bug 101: Adults are about 1/4 inch long, flat and sort of oval-shaped. They are brown until they feed on a blood meal and then they turn a dark red color (yep, that’s your blood). Each female can produce 200-500 eggs in her lifetime (10-50 at a time) and the eggs are attached by a glue-like substance, in groups, into cracks and crevices and rough surfaces.
Eggs hatch in about three weeks and the “nymph” stage morphs about 5 times until they reach adulthood (takes 35-48 days). They can survive for six or seven months without a blood meal and some reports indicate they have lived in abandoned houses or buildings for up to one year feeding on rodents or birds. Because of this factor, it can take up to a year to truly gain control over this nasty bloodsucker in your home!
If you do a lot of traveling, you are at greater risk of introducing these pests into your little corner of the world. You can be the richest, cleanest most organized neat freak and still bring them home with you without even realizing it. Sometimes people have delayed reactions to the bites and others don’t have a reaction at all. This makes it very challenging to narrow down where they came from and when the problem began. Now, you don’t have to be a traveler to be at risk. In fact, we have customers all the time that tell of their workplaces (restaurants, clothing boutiques, resale shops (which are very popular right now because of the economy–people are looking to save money by buying previously used clothing, household items and furniture) being infested and that leaves us, the unsuspecting customer, at risk of bringing them home.
Before you freak out it’s important to understand two things; 1) They are not considered a disease vector (yet, at least) and 2)
In a perfect world, you can hire a Professional Exterminator to come and take care of the problem for you. They too, will have to keep coming out to treat for a minimum of one year to ensure complete eradication, so you can count on this being a VERY EXPENSIVE option. On the plus side, they may have a few more weapons in their arsenal like, Bed bug-detecting dogs or Heat Treatment options that the average homeowner or business owner does not have readily or affordably available. If you are able to afford this option, congratulations–most people are not, however.
If you are not able to afford the above option, NOT TO WORRY, WE CAN HELP! We have found that it is a combination of things that will give the homeowner success at this VERY CHALLENGING task. I am going to outline the various options you have to choose from and then you can decide what will work best for you (budget and time wise).
STEP ONE (Mechanical Alteration):
Remove all visible bed bugs by thoroughly vacuuming carpets, furniture (beds, couches, chairs, dressers, night stands, baseboards and cracks and crevices. Put the vacuum cleaner bag in a air-tight zip lock bag and freeze for at least a week and then discard. (You don’t want to spread them to others’ by just throwing them away.)
All bedding, and clothing (closet and drawers) should be laundered and dried in the dryer at a high temperature (over 120 degrees). Pillows and draperies should be dry cleaned or discarded if severely infested (if you are unable to freeze them as noted above, at least mark the trash bag in very large red letters “BED BUG INFESTED-DO NOT REUSE this would also hold true if you need to discard any furniture items or bedding. You don’t want your nightmare to cause grief to others.) Once the clothing is laundered, put it in XL Zip-Loc bags and seal tight so they do not become re-infested. They may return to dressers and closets AFTER IT HAS BEEN TREATED.
STEP TWO (Chemical, Dust and/or Heat Treatment):
Wow! This is a bigee. There are several options here and, in my professional opinion, you will want to do a combination of several. Some folks want to hit it hard with chemical control while others want to approach if from a “green” or “organic” approach. I am going to lay out both and you can choose what is right for you and your family. Now bear in mind that these pests MUST BE KILLED! The emotional trauma and effects of this pest can really take a toll on the human mind. It causes fear, embarrassment, lack of social interaction and psychosomatic feelings that bugs are one you and then there is the potential for secondary infections caused by the actual bites! It’s horrible. It cannot be ignored or treated with the over-the-counter discount chain store products–you need the PROPER INFORMATION AND THE PROPER TREATMENT SOLUTIONS.
Residual Insecticides with the addition of an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) to treat Mattress, Box Spring, Bed Frame, Cracks and Crevices. Product Choices would be: Suspend, Bedlam, SteriFab mixed with Gentrol or Nyguard (IGR’s). I’ve chosen these because I know that they are labeled for treating all or part of the Mattress.
Aerosols would include: Bedlam or Tri-Die
Non-Aerosol: Steri-Fab (Aslo a viruscide, germicide, deodorizer, sanitizer and mildewcide)
Dust: Delta Dust
Glass Dishes or traps under bed posts or legs (Bed bugs cannot climb smooth surfaces) *Note: bed must be away from the walls and there can be no bedding touching the floor!
Glue Boards with Phermone (bug hormone) lure to attract and catch Bed bugs on the glue
Diatomaceous Earth (DE Dust) Long lasting dust picked up easily by pests. Cuts through soft bodies insects and dehydrates them *Note: DO NOT USE POOL DE DUST. IT MUST BE LAKE BED MINED DE DUST!
Mattress and Pillow Encasements (Covers) Use AFTER treating to prevent reinfestation. Note* Be sure they are “bite proof” AND “escape proof” cheap ones will NOT do the job.
Heat Treating with a Clothing Steamer works well on mattresses or other surfaces that have high contact with human skin *Note temperature must be over 120 degrees to be effective.
Clothes Dryer works well for clothes and bedding materials.
Now that you know the basics of Bed bug control you can “rest easy” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). I want to caution you though, that it is not enough to just know the names of the products to use. YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO USE THEM so that you get SAFE, EFFECTIVE results. I therefore urge you to make sure you know that the place and the person(s) that you are buying the products from are State Certified Pest Control Operators that can not only sell you things, but moreover, TEACH YOU HOW TO DO IT! It makes a difference.
If you don’t have such a place in your area, we are here for you, and have been for 25 years. We can ship you the products and provide in-detail instructions for you to follow. Contact us at http://pestcontrolgeneralstore.com
If you would like information on having your home or business Professionally Heat Treated, you can contact http://www.antipesto.com and for additional information, we recommend the University of Florida in Gainsville, Department on Entomology and Nematology http://www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/297
As always….ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURERS LABEL DIRECTIONS! If you have a question give us a call at (727) 942-3551 or eMail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. When it comes to pesticides this is the rule: When in doubt–don’t.
Blessings, and HAVE A SAFE SPRAY!
Mona Giordano (The Bug Lady)
*All insect photos are from The University of Florida