Bed Bug Control
Sometimes it’s comforting to know that there are some things that unite us with the “old days” of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. That’s why we have traditions and customs like family gatherings on holidays. Some things just make us feel good about our history and all the things we have in common with previous generations.
Bed bugs, unfortunately, are not among those things. They’re among the things about the old days that most folks wish had remained just an old memory.
There was a time, you see, when we thought that bed bugs had been eradicated in the United States. And maybe they were. Certainly they weren’t something pest control professionals had encountered, except for a few of the real old-timers; and even for them, they were just a distant memory.
But bed bugs are back — and they’re making up for lost time.
Why Did Bed Bugs Go Away?
A lot of people wonder why bed bugs came back. But the bigger question is why did they go away for all those years. Most of us in the pest control business tend to believe that the reason why bed bugs stopped being a problem in the United States for so long has to do with the pest control methods that were used back then.
Until the 1970’s, exterminators attacked most insect problems by spraying highly-toxic, volatile chemicals all over the house. These chemicals were “broad-spectrum,” meaning that they killed a wide variety of insects. So when the exterminator came around to spray a house for cockroaches, ants, and so forth, they incidentally killed the bed bugs, as well.
Another probable reason for the demise of bed bugs in America is that while we were busy nuking bed bugs into oblivion here in the states, we were also busy keeping new ones out of the country. Until the middle of the 20th Century, immigrants to the United States and their clothing and belongs were routinely “de-loused” with chemicals such as DDT, which also prevented any bed bugs from making it into the country.
Again, bed bugs weren’t really the target pest. The immigration department was more concerned about body lice, which were known to transmit typhus. But the powerful insecticides killed the bed bugs, as well.
After the great waves of immigration were over, we entered an era during which international travel settled down for a while. That era lasted until the 1970’s, at which time it began to pick up again; and by the 1990’s, traveling overseas other than for business became more commonplace. It was probably during this period that bed bugs began to sneak into the United States again.
By that time, we’d already starting shifting away from broad-spectrum insecticides toward a more targeted approach that was effective against the insects we were treating for, but not against the bed bugs. And the rest, friends, is history.
Bed Bug Biology
Bed bugs are small, flattened, wingless, nocturnal insects that feed on human blood. They start their lives as eggs laid near places where people sleep. Within a couple of weeks, they hatch into nymphs that start feeding on human blood as soon as they can. Bed bugs are not social insects, and the adults do not provide any care to the young. They must start looking for a host as soon as they hatch.
Bed bugs can survive for quite a long time without feeding, but they must take a blood meal to progress to each of the five stages of their development. Given a steady supply of blood and average room temperatures, they reach adulthood in about five weeks.
Adult females must also take a blood meal after their last molt, after which they start laying eggs. They lay a few eggs every day, and can can lay several hundred eggs over the course of their lives; so obviously, a small bed bug problem can become a big bed bug problem very quickly.
Once they hatch, bed bugs take up residence close to where people sleep, often in their bedding, but also very frequently in other furnishings or in structural cracks and crevices. We often find them behind baseboards and trim, in electrical boxes, in picture frames, and even inside window blind tubes.
Because of their tiny size, in fact, bed bugs can hide pretty much anywhere. And that’s exactly what they do. They hide out during the day, and then at night, once we’re sound asleep, they emerge from hiding and start feeding. Because their bites aren’t painful, we sleep through the whole thing; and by the time we wake up in the morning, the bed bugs have gone back into hiding.
In fact, bed bugs are so sneaky about what they do that most folks don’t even know they have a bed bug problem until they notice blood stains on the sheets or the bite marks on their bodies. Reactions to bed bugs bites vary quite a bit, though, from almost none at all to severe, swollen rashes that itch terribly. Most people’s reactions are somewhere in between, usually itchy, raised bumps or welts.
The jury’s still out as to whether bed bugs transmit disease. At the time of this writing, there is no definitive evidence that they do. There have been a very few studies out of Canada that suggest that bed bugs may be capable of spreading MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), but most studies have not found this to be the case. For the time being, bed bugs are not believed to be disease vectors.
Bed bugs do, however, have a distinct, unpleasant odor that becomes very noticeable in severe infestations. It’s hard to describe on a Web page, but it’s both sweet and musty at the same time. Some people describe it as smelling like moldy fruit, and others compare it to dirty socks.
Bed Bug Control
Even seasoned pest control veterans consider bed bugs to be among the most difficult pests to control. At Bugaboo Pest Control, we use a variety of methods to eradicate bed bug problems, based on the particular situation. But the first steps must be performed by the customer:
- A day or two before the bed bug treatment, all clothing, bed linens, and draperies must be dry-cleaned or washed with detergent in the hottest water they can stand. Once they’re dry, seal them tightly in plastic bags and store them away from the infected areas.
- Plush toys must also be thoroughly washed with water and detergent in a washing machine, deep-frozen for at least four or five days, or discarded. You’re really better off discarding them, if you can bear to do so. It’s very difficult to kill bed bugs that are inside plush toys.
- On the morning of the treatment, carpets, flooring, trim, and furniture should be vacuumed with a powerful vacuum cleaner to quickly reduce bed bug populations. Leave the vacuum cleaner in the room until the treatment is completed to avoid spreading bed bugs to other areas.
- If you plan to replace the mattresses and box springs, don’t just go dragging them through the house to discard them. This may spread bed bugs throughout the house. Seal them inside plastic mattress bags (like the ones movers use) and tape them closed with plastic packing tape before moving and discarding them.
- By the time we arrive, the room should be as empty as possible, with no draperies, no bedding on the beds, and nothing in any of the closets, dressers or cabinets.
- Some items not mentioned above may require special treatment methods. If you have any questions, please call us for specific advice and instructions.
Once we arrive at your home, we’ll treat the infested rooms using some combination of heat, desiccant dusts, liquid insecticides, aerosol insecticides, and traps. Bed bug control is very detailed work that requires extraordinary precision, so please be aware that the treatment may take several hours.
Once any insecticide applications are dry, the mattresses and box springs in the affected rooms must be encased in bed bug resistant mattress cases. We have these available for purchase at competitive prices, so please call us if you need them.
Finally, bed bug control is not a do-it-yourself job. Almost all DIY bedbug control attempts fail. For professional help with bed bugs in the Portland or Vancouver Metro areas, please contact Bugaboo Pest Control instead.