Northeast Ohio and many places across the country are experiencing a significant increase in bed bug complaints. Bed bugs were once thought to be pests found only on bedding in homes, apartments, and rooming houses. Now bed bugs are found in office buildings, retail stores, hospitals, dormitories, nursing homes, office buildings, libraries, movie theaters, buses, and any other place where people gather. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and are easily spread by moving beds, furniture, luggage, or clothing from one location to another.
Identifying Bed Bugs
• Bed bugs are small, flat, oval, reddish-brown, wingless insects that feed primarily on the blood of humans.
• Adult bed bugs are approximately ¼ inch long, about the size of an apple seed. Young bed bugs (nymphs) are quite small and when unfed they appear lighter and almost clear in color.
• Bed bugs do not fly or jump. However, they can crawl very fast.
Bed Bug Bites
• Bed bugs bites often occur on the arms, shoulders, neck and legs.
• The bite can usually be seen as a red bump, up to a centimeter in size and without a red puncture mark in the middle.
• The bites may occur in lines or as a cluster of three or four.
• The bite may appear within hours or delayed up to a week.
• Bed bugs are primarily a nuisance to humans and are not known to transmit disease. Some people have no reaction to bites while other people may experience itchiness and irritation. Try to avoid scratching bites. Questions about bite marks should be directed to a medical provider.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
Usually the first sign of a bed bug infestation is the appearance of red itchy welts on any bare skin that is exposed while sleeping. Next, look for small black or rusty-colored spots on bed linens, pillows, or mattress. These are blood spots and bed bug droppings. Also, look for live bed bugs, eggs, and cast skins.
Inspecting for Bed Bugs
Bed bugs hide close to where people sleep. They prefer fabric, wood, and paper surfaces over metal or plastic. Look for live bed bugs, eggs, cast skins, and blood or fecal spots in these locations: mattresses, box springs, head boards, bed frames, upholstered furniture, recliners, baseboards, behind pictures, under loose wallpaper, draperies, electrical outlets, telephones, radios, televisions, stacks of books, piles of papers, back packs, luggage, futons, gym bags, draperies & curtains, stuffed animals, hollow furniture legs, door frames & hinges, wall / ceiling junction.
Treating Bed Bug Infestations
Complete elimination of a bed bug infestation can be a difficult process and may require the services of a knowledgeable and licensed pest control operator. It may take several treatments to gain control over an infestation. If a "do-it-yourself" method is chosen, only use pesticide products that are labeled to kill bed bugs. Remember to always read and follow the label directions before applying any pesticide product. Here are some additional tips to help eliminate bed bugs.
• Reduce and eliminate clutter. Don't keep piles of clothes, boxes, toys, shoes, etc. on the floor, under the bed, or in closets. They are prime hiding places for bed bugs.
• Wash infested bedding and clothing in hot water and then dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes.
• Encase an infested mattress and box spring in a zippered cover that is labeled and certified "bed bug proof". Leave the covers on for at least one full year.
• Vacuum bedrooms thoroughly and often. Pay particular attention to the area around the bed and the bed itself. Place the vacuum cleaner bag or contents in a zip-lock plastic bag and discard it in the trash outside.
• Getting rid of bed bugs is a cooperative effort. Follow all recommended preparation guidelines provided by the pest control company prior to each treatment.
• Pesticides labeled to kill bed bugs are available over the counter and may provide effective control. However, if the problem persists or is heavily entrenched, contact a knowledgeable, experienced, and licensed pest management professional for assistance.
• Since bed bugs are difficult to control, plan on several extensive treatments to eliminate an infestation.
• DO NOT USE "Bug Bombs". These products may kill on contact but they are ineffective against hidden bed bugs. They may make the infestation worse by scattering the bugs throughout the home or apartment.
• If an infestation is suspected in a rental unit, contact the building manager or landlord about the problem. Property owners should contact a professional pest control company for advice and assistance. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health (at (216) 201-2000) is also available to assist.
Preventing Future Infestations of Bed Bugs
• Do not bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, or upholstered furniture into the home.
• Carefully inspect used or rented furniture prior to bringing it into the home.
• When traveling, inspect the bed, headboard, and furniture upon arrival. Keep suitcases off the floor and bed and inspect them before leaving. Wash and dry all clothing thoroughly after returning home.
• Caulk and seal any cracks and crevices throughout the home, especially in rooms where people sleep.
• Be careful of who stays overnight or sleeps at the house.
Bed Bugs in Nursing Homes
Although no residence is safe, certain populations are particularly prone to bed bug infestations. A troublingly high incidence of bed bug infestations has been reported in nursing homes throughout the country.
Bed bug infestations are a concern for many seniors living in senior housing. Seniors living in a nursing home may be exposed to bed bugs through shared laundry facilities or common sitting areas, or by staying in a room near someone who may have bed bugs.
Bed bugs are attracted to heat and chemicals emitted by humans and survive on human blood. Therefore, nursing homes act as a breeding ground for bed bugs due to the high rate of residents, staff and family members moving about the facility. Furthermore, residents stay in bed for prolonged periods of time and live in close proximity, making it easy for bed bugs to survive.
Recommendations for Residents in Senior Housing
• Keep any living space clutter-free. Clutter provides great hiding spots for bed bugs.
• Bites that appear after sleeping may be an indication that bed bugs are present, even if they do not itch.
• Report a bed bug infestation to the property manager or facility administrator within 24 hours of the pest sighting.
• Do not attempt to control a bed bug infestation alone. Never self treat with pesticides, especially "bug bombs", which drive bed bugs into adjacent rooms or units.
• Do not remove anything from an infested room until after the room is treated by a pest management professional (PMP).
• Cooperate fully with the recommendations provided by the PMP to prepare rooms for bed bug inspection and treatment. Ask the property manager or administration for help if there are preparation steps that cannot be accomplished alone, such as disassembling or moving furniture. Disabled and elderly individuals should request assistance with preparation.
• Prior to treatment, place all clutter and garbage from infested rooms in sealed plastic bags. Bagged items should remain in the infested room for treatment by a PMP prior to disposal.
• The day of the pesticide treatment, all bedding and clothing should be bagged in plastic, transported to the laundry and laundered using hot water. Dry the items for at least 30 minutes on high heat. Bags used for transport should not be re-used, but should be sealed and disposed with other infested refuse.
Bed bug infestations are a problem that affects everyone. Do not be reluctant to discuss a possible infestation because of embarrassment. It is important to report the infestation to management. The earlier the infestation is addressed, the more likely it will be quickly controlled.