Bed Bug Awareness: Prevention, Identification and Control
Bed bug reports are on the rise
Bed bugs are certainly not something people like to talk about or even want to think about having to deal with. The reality though is that they do exist, and are growing in numbers. Bed bug reports are rising according to various national pest companies. Reported cases have been up by more than 50% each year over the past 8-10 years. Nobody is really sure exactly why.
Bed bugs in schools
Actual bedbug infestations in schools are uncommon. More commonly, a few bed bugs will hitchhike to school from an infested home by hiding in a student’s clothing or backpack. With bed bug numbers rising, the likelihood that your children will come into contact with a child at school that has a bed bug infestation at home is also rising. Schools across the nation are seeing a rise in bed bug instances and almost all schools have bed bug protocols in place.
Bed bugs can go to school or come home from school with students either:
- On the student themselves
- On their clothes
- On or in their book bags
Check your children for bed bugs
The single most important step you can take to defend your home against bed bugs is to inspect your children as soon as they come home.
Bed bugs are small reddish-brown colored insects about the size of an apple seed. Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye, but are notorious for hiding in small cracks and crevices.
In addition to looking for the bugs themselves, watch for signs of the bed bugs, which are either left over body shells or fecal matter. Fecal matter is generally small black or red spots on clothing.
To inspect your students for bed bugs, do the following:
- Inspect the contents of their book bag. This includes books, papers, pencil holders, and any other item. Pay attention to crevices and cracks.
- With the contents removed, inspect their book bag. This includes inspecting all pockets and zipper areas. If possible, turn the various areas inside out for a thorough inspection.
- Inspect your child. I know this might be a little uncomfortable, but bed bugs hide. So check hair, and other “more hidden” areas of your children. For older children that aren’t comfortable with you inspecting them, teach them the proper inspection process. This process is very similar to checking for ticks, which most parents are familiar with.
For items with bed bugs or signs of bed bugs that cannot be immediately washed and dried, they should be immediately placed in a sealed plastic bag and disposed of in an external trashcan. Do not risk trying to clean them or remove the bugs, it’s just not worth it.
Bed bugs in your home
If you feel like you may have a bed bug infestation in your home, addressing the problem quickly is critical. Again, bed bugs are not something any of us want to have to deal with, especially when it comes to our kids and homes. Spending just a few minutes to inspect your kids for bed bugs can make a positive difference in reducing your home’s risk of getting infested.
What do bed bugs look like?
One of the most important steps you can take to treating a potential bed bug infestation is making sure that the bugs you are treating are in fact bed bugs. There are many other household bugs that look similar and can cause confusion. Fortunately, recognizing bed bugs knowing what bed bugs look like is very straight forward.
Here’s one of the pictures from our photo gallery:
As you can see, bed bugs are parasitic insects that resemble a beetle. Bed bugs are flat and have an oval body shape. They have no wings, 3 legs on each side and long “feelers”.
Bed bugs are light brown to reddish brown in color normally. However, just after consuming blood, bed bugs can be bright red with a clear abdomen.
Bed bugs are very small, 4-5mm long and 1 – 3mm wide. For some size perspective, an adult bed bug is about the size of an average apple seed. Here’s a picture of a bug on a coin for some additional perspective:
Bed bugs generally hide during the day and can be found in folders, corners and in dark hidden areas. They are not easy to find or see in most cases. Many times you may not see the bugs themselves, but may see bed bug signs, like:
- Tiny black spots (excrement) on beddings that when wet turn red
- Semitransparent light brown or red skin casings.
- Yellow to white eggs that are sticky.
- Dark fecal spots bed sheets, in the seams of your mattress, between the mattress and box spring, in the crevices of a box spring, in the corners of the mattress by the headboard or in the carpet below the bed. If you store items under your bed, you will want to check those as well.
- A common way of knowing that you have bed bugs is from actual bites on your body. Be aware though, that bed bug bites look like the bites of many other inspects. Bites alone will not confirm that you have bed bugs.
Bed bugs often “hang out” together, and while you may find one here and there, they will generally be grouped together.
Bed Bug Detection
There is a common misconception that bed begs are only found in filthy or dirty areas and homes. Not true. Bed bugs can be found in any home or dwelling and most climates in the US provide adequate living conditions for them. Early bed bug detection is critical to avoiding a large infestation that can be cost and time consuming.
In some cases, the presence of bed bugs is obvious, and bed bugs can be seen crawling on the bed itself or on the sheets, pillows or furniture. Unfortunately, in many cases, bed bugs are difficult to see and find. Given they are generally only active at night while you’re sleeping, finding bed bugs is often difficult.
Visually detecting bed bugs
While the bed bugs themselves might be difficult to see, they leave behind clues of their presence that are easy to see with the naked eye.
Here are a few visual signs to look for to help with finding bed bugs:
- Tiny black spots (excrement) on beddings when wet turn red, semitransparent light brown or red skin casings, live bed bugs crawling around. Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed.
- Look for dark fecal spots or even the bugs themselves on bed sheets, in the seams of your mattress, between the mattress and box spring, in the crevices of a box spring, in the corners of the mattress by the headboard or in the carpet below the bed. If you store items under your bed, you will want to check those as well.
- Any furniture near your beds, such as nightstands or dressers should be emptied and completely examined inside and out. You will also want to inspect the bottom and undersides of drawers. Bed bugs will often be hiding in cracks, corners and recesses.
- If you have lights or pictures hanging on walls near your bed, you will want to remove those, and check them inside and out.
- The most common way of knowing that you have bed bugs is from actual bites on your body.
Here’s the proper and safe way to detect possible bed bugs in your home or office:
- Do not remove anything from your room. Every single item will need to be treated/inspected first.
- Put a pair of disposable white gloves on. White gloves allow you to easily see any blood, or fecal matter from items in your home on your hands as you inspect the items. They’ll also make you feel a little more sanitary.
- Remove all clothing from your drawers and closet. Additionally, remove any bed linens and curtains. Immediately place these items in heavy duty black trash bags and tie them in the same room you removed them from. Do not take them into another room until they are bagged and tied!
- Take the bags immediately to your laundry room, place the bags into your dryer, and rip the bag open. Empty the clothes into the dryer, paying attention to the floor to be sure no bed bugs or items drop onto the floor, if they do put them into the dryer immediately.
- Turn the dryer on its hottest cycle for at least 2 hours. Dispose of the ripped bags into an outside trash container.
- While the cloths are in the dryer, spread out a white table cloth or bed sheet onto the floor or bed. Place items one at a time onto the bed sheet, giving them a few good shakes before putting them down. Thoroughly inspect them using an LED Flashlight and Magnifying Glass for either bed bugs or signs of bed bugs.
- If you see bed bugs or signs of bed bugs, place the items into a black trash bag. If the items are free of bed begs or signs of bed bugs, take it into another room of your home.
- Continue this process for everything in your room. This includes books, magazines, knick knacks, photos (even ones on the wall), alarm clocks …. EVERYTHING. Skipping just one item, and missing bed bugs on it can cause a whole infestation to start again.
- Using the flashlight and magnifying inspect each item. Pay attention to hidden and hard to reach areas on furniture, photos, lamps etc. For electronics and items you can visual inspect inside, we recommend you throw them away and replace them.
- Continue this sorting process until all items in your room have been visually inspected. You can leave any large furniture items in the room.
- For items in the black bags, where you found bed bugs or signs of bed bugs – You’ll need to make some tough choices. The best option is to throw them away and replace them. But if you can’t or it’s not financially feasible, you’ll want to treat those items. If you do decide to throw the items away, make sure they are in a sealed trash bag and immediately take them to an outside trash container.
You’ll want to inspect all rooms of your home, unfortunately bed bugs travel, so if you have them in one room, chances are they are in other rooms too.