skip to main content

News & Events

Reports of Bed Bugs Increases

Posted 11/17/2009

Most people of this generation have never seen a bed bug. Bed bug infestations were common in the United States before World War II. But with improvements in hygiene, and especially the widespread use of DDT during the 1940s and ’50s, the bugs all but vanished. In recent years, bed bugs have made a comeback in the U.S. They are increasingly being encountered in homes, apartments, hotels, motels, dormitories, shelters and modes of transport. International travel and immigration have undoubtedly contributed to the resurgence of bed bugs in this country. Changes in modern pest control practice - and less effective bed bug pesticides - are other factors suspected for the recurrence.

Adult bed bugs are brown to reddish-brown, oval-shaped, flattened, and about 3/16 to 1/5 inch long. Their flat shape enables them to readily hide in cracks and crevices. The body becomes more elongate, swollen, and dark red after a blood meal. Bed bugs have a beaklike piercing-sucking mouthpart system. The adults have small, stubby, nonfunctional wing pads. Newly hatched nymphs are nearly colorless, becoming brownish as they mature.

Bed bugs usually bite people at night while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin with an elongated beak through which they withdraw blood. Engorgement takes about three to 10 minutes, yet the person seldom knows they are being bitten. Symptoms thereafter vary with the individual. Many people develop an itchy red welt or localized swelling, which sometimes appears a day or so after the bite. Others have little or no reaction. Unlike fleabites, which occur mainly around the ankles, bed bugs feed on any bare skin exposed while sleeping (face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, etc.). The welts and itching are often attributed to other causes such as mosquitoes. For these reasons, infestations may go a long time unnoticed, and can become quite large before being detected. Conversely, it is important to recognize that not all bites or bite-like reactions are due to bed bugs. Confirmation requires finding and identifying the bugs themselves, which often requires the help of a professional.

Control of bed bugs is best achieved by following an integrated pest management (IPM) approach that involves multiple tactics, such as preventive measures, sanitation, and chemicals applied to targeted sites. Severe infestations usually are best handled by a licensed pest management professional.

Prevention

Do not bring infested items into one’s home. It is important to carefully inspect clothing and baggage of travelers, being on the lookout for bed bugs. Also, inspect secondhand beds, bedding, and furniture. Caulk cracks and crevices in the building exterior and also repair or screen openings to exclude birds, bats, and rodents that can serve as alternate hosts for bed bugs.

Inspection

Inspection efforts should concentrate on the mattress, box springs, and bed frame, as well as crack and crevices that the bed bugs may hide in during the day or when digesting a blood meal.

Sanitation

Sanitation measures include frequently vacuuming the mattress and premises, laundering bedding and clothing in hot water, and cleaning and sanitizing dwellings. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag, seal tightly, and discard in a container outdoors—this prevents captured bed bugs from escaping into the home. Discarding the mattress is another option, although a new mattress can quickly become infested if bed bugs are still on the premises. Repair cracks in plaster and glue down loosened wallpaper to eliminate bed bug harborage sites. Remove and destroy wild animal roosts and nests when possible.

Insecticides

Residual insecticides (usually pyrethroids) are applied as spot treatments to cracks and crevices where bed bugs are hiding. Dust formulations may be used to treat wall voids and attics. Repeat insecticide applications if bed bugs are present two weeks after the initial treatment since it is difficult to find all hiding places and hidden eggs may have hatched.

Do not use any insecticide on a mattress unless the product label specifically mentions such use. Note that very few insecticides are labeled for use on mattresses. If using an appropriately labeled insecticide on a mattress, take measures to minimize pesticide exposure to occupants.

No insecticides are labeled for use on bedding or linens. These items should be dry cleaned or laundered in hot water and dried using the “hot” setting.

For more information on “Bed Bugs,” go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_g/g-318.html

« Return to previous page