The Bug Clinic
                   "Do-It-Yourself" Pest Control    

         Celebrating Our 33rd Year - 1981-2014 - Our 17th Year on the Web - 1997-2014

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Bed Bugs - A Health Problem Returns to the US

    Actual Size - Approx. 1/8"-1/4" - shown on human skin - Photo Courtesy of Univar USA

    

     This is an ancient insect whose roots are thought to go back to the times of cave dwellers.  For many years, bed bugs were found in numerous communities around the US.   As late as the 1950's bed bugs were a considerable problem.   After the discovery of DDT and it application in the US, the incidence of bed bug infestations declined.

     Why has this pest surfaced once again?   There are a number of theories.  First, there is much more world travel.  Also, more people visit from other countries that have bed bug problems.  This pest is carried from one place to another in luggage and on clothing.  With more bed bug problems, hotel and motel travelers run a greater risk of contact with bed bugs and may eventually bring bed bugs home with them. 

     Other behavior driving the problem includes people taking infested bedding and furniture from the street not realizing the reason they were put there and then introduce bed bugs into their homes.  When bedding suppliers pick up infested bedding from customers, they do not always take measures to prevent bed bugs from moving onto new bedding on their delivery trucks.   Companies that remanufacture mattresses may not be insure that their product is pest free and unsuspecting people may purchase them to save money.  And then there are bed bugs being spread by furniture rental companies delivering bedding and furniture taken from infested homes.

    Another speculation is that a shift to the use of gel baits for insect control, a common food based replacement for the liquid insecticides previously used inside homes, has allow bed bug populations to thrive.  Although sprays may have helped to suppress bed bug populations, gel baits do not attract or kill bedbugs seeking blood from a live host.

    Whatever the reason, bed bugs are a formidable pest problem.  Its affect on people is substantial and debilitating and can traumatize its victims.  Bed bugs commonly bite the host around the waist while in bed at night.  However, bites may occur on other exposed areas such as arms and legs.  Bites may be individual or in a series caused by the victim moving around, forcing the bed bug to bite in another place.

    After biting, they scurry toward mattress tufts or buttons or under the ribbing, bed frames or platforms, moldings, floor joints, picture frames and in any other crack or crevice they may find.  The sole source of food is the blood meal which they take at night while the victim sleeps.  When the victim awakes, the only sign of bed bugs is the telltale bite and/or blood on the sheets.

Identifying The Problem 

    The bed bug bite usually leaves a nasty, red welt that is not easily dismissed and can cause more severe problems for hypersensitive individuals.   However, we strongly recommend that if insects cannot be found, that the diagnosis of such bites be done by a qualified physician or dermatologist.

    A helpful tool in identifying biting insects is to place insect or mouse glue traps or double sided adhesive tape in a number of areas around the mattress in an attempt to capture insects.   Try wrapping the tape around the mattress just below the top and try to keep the blanket above it to prevent it from sticking to the tape.  Note that monitoring is not a very reliable method for detecting bed bugs.  Careful inspection of likely hiding places is recommended using a bright flashlight.

    The bed bug is secretive in its behavior and just like a flea, its body, too, appears to be flat.  However, while the flea appears squashed together, the bed bug appears squashed down.  As a result, these insects can squeeze into very small cracks or crevices.  As mentioned above, the areas to look for bed bugs include mattresses and box springs   Check tufts, buttons, under handles and above and below the piping along the upper and lower edges and within any corner guards.  On box springs, inspect the areas where the ticking is stapled to the bottom.   If the ticking is torn, check inside carefully for evidence.   Finally, check bed frames and hollow areas where frame components connect, floor, wall, window and door moldings, picture frames and in any other objects adjacent to the victim's sleeping area.

    Bed bugs are able to survive for a long time without a blood meal.  Thus a mattress that is infested with bedbugs may still be a problem, even when the bed is unused for a long period of time.

Note: Bat Bugs Are Out There Too...

    There exists a bat bug (a bat bed bug) as well that looks very similar to a bedbug but has distinctly longer hairs around the head and body.  Bat bugs prefer bats,  but if the host animals are removed and the bat bugs are left behind, they will seek out a human host.  If you live in or visit a building with a bat infestation or recently corrected bat problem, this could be a possible source of bites.

Dealing With Bed Bug Infestations

    Bed bug problems should not be taken lightly.  Immediate action should be taken to treat the affected individuals and to remove them from the infested environment.  You will need a good, bright flashlight in order to check and inspect areas where bed bugs are likely to hide. 

    If you suspect that you've brought bed bugs home in your luggage from a recent trip, you may want to inspect and treat the luggage. 

Bedding 

    Although one's first reaction is to dispose of the offending mattress or bedding, this is not necessary and may not eliminate the problem. Bedding acts as a staging area from which the bed bugs leave to bite at night. Treatment of the immediate area should include spraying or dusting of the mattress and box spring.  (It may be necessary to cut open the mesh enclosure (ticking) on the bottom of the box spring in order to properly inspect and treat this area.)  Most attention should be given to the area along the edges above and below the piping or seams or under mattress tufts, buttons or handles. 

    You must separate the mattress and box spring and treat areas in between as needed.  Pillow-top mattresses require special attention.  Be sure to treat the bunched, stapled areas along the bottom of the box spring where the mesh is loose around the staples forming gaps where the bedbugs may hide.

    In dealing with an infested sofa, love seat or (upholstered) chair, disposal may be necessary since it is difficult to reach into the deepest crevices of that type of furniture due to the many hollows, fiberfill and the wood frame which may provide harborage for bed bugs.  You can attempt to treat, but consider disposal if the problem persists after careful, repeated treatment of such items does not resolve the problem.

    Bedding including sheets, pillow cases, pillow and other bedding should be laundered in hot water and detergent and placed in a dryer for 20-30 minutes on high to kill and remove insects or their eggs.   Optionally, you can place items into the dryer for 20-30 minutes without laundering as an option.  Other items requiring similar attention include draperies or curtains hanging in the affected room.   Also check any hollow areas on any other window dressings such as window shades or blinds.  Laundered or dryer treated items should be stored away from the bed bug infested area or sealed in securely tied heavy duty plastic bags to keeps insects out.  If you are transport items in a plastic bag to be laundered, don't reuse that bag.  Be sure to bring a new, unused bag when you remove items from the dryer.  It is suggest that you keep the laundered items stored in another area for at least a few days before returning the clothing to drawers, shelves or closets.

    A residual insecticide or a non-residual pyrethrins product may be applied to the bed frame connecting points at both the headboard and footboard and wall moldings as well as any other objects or hollow areas that offer "shelter" for bed bugs.  If a headboard is fastened to the wall, it must be removed to allow an insecticide application.

    A proper spray treatment is done by simply wetting the surface so that the spray does not move from the intended area.  We recommend that you use a pin stream or jet steam application rather than a wide spray for best results and use low pressure to minimize drift.

Furniture, Moldings & Other Objects

    Treat night tables and dressers by emptying them and then removing the drawers.  Treat in the corners of each drawer both inside and then on the bottom corners of each drawer.  Then, tip furniture on its side to check along the bottom and around casters since bed bugs may hide here as well.  Be sure to spray the back and bottom of the furniture as well.  Also check mirrors and attaching brackets since bedbugs may hide inside of metal rails that are present on some furniture.

    All clothing stored in the drawers or closets in the room should be washed and dried, dried or dry cleaned as needed.  If you transport the items to be washed in plastic bags, don't reuse them; be sure to bring new, unused plastic bags with you to use to bring the clothing back.  If there are closets or shelves in the bedroom, clothing should be remove and washed and dried, dried or dry cleaned.

    Check any objects hanging on the wall such as picture frames or clocks.  Open up wall outlet and switch covers and inspect to be sure that bed bugs have not taken up residence in those areas. Wall mounted telephone jacks are also suspect and should be checked. 

    All moldings in the room including those that are mounted high and low must be treated.  Wall to wall carpeting should be pulled away to expose the wooden mounting strip.  Spray on both sides of the mounting strips and check the carpet backing.  Treat as needed.  Don't overlook openings on the ceiling where lighting fixtures are attached since bed bugs may come down from other infested rooms in apartment buildings

    Open and inspect telephones and clock radios.  You can set up a box with some double stick tape in the bottom, then tap the object over the box to capture any insects that may be hiding inside.  The tape will hold the the bugs in place.

    In severe cases where the population of bed bugs is high, treatment of adjacent rooms may be necessary.  Closets in the bedroom may require treatment and the contents will need to be washed and dried as well.

    In apartment buildings, it may be helpful to seal any cracks or crevices around floorboards and moldings to prevent insects from migrating to or coming in from other apartments. 

    In buildings with a bat bug infestation, sealing cracks and crevices is very important.  Insecticide treatment around access areas from the attic may be needed too.

    If there is a wooden floor and there are gaps between the boards, be sure to treat there as well.  Dust products will be best for treating in these areas.  When treating, try to think three dimensionally, looking up and down and observing the treatment area from the floor and from above, looking down.

    Sprays or dusts should be directed into cracks and crevices -  surface spraying of carpets and upholstery or dusting of these areas is usually unnecessary.

    One final point: though these treatments should be effective, it may take some time for them to work.  Therefore, it may be prudent to arrange to sleep in another area for several days.  Unfortunately, the only way to know if the problem has been resolved is to try sleeping in the treated area once again.

Products That We Offer  

    The Bug Clinic now offers eight products that may be applied for bed bug infestations.  The first, Permacide P-1, is labeled for application to mattresses as well as to cracks and crevices and in surrounding areas as needed.  The active ingredient in this product is .5% permethrin, a residual insecticide.  This is the most popular product that we sell for bed bugs

    Whitmire PI (Pyrethrins Insecticide) Aerosol, is supplied with a crack and crevice void injector for treating a variety of sites.  This product may also be applied in the same areas as Permacide P-1, but it contains pyrethrins, a non residual insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers.  Insects contacted with this product are killed almost immediately, but there is no reside left after an hour or two.  Because of this property, this product could assist in determining the presence of bedbugs since they will respond immediately to applications made to suspected areas.  When applying within long stretches of wall moldings, a short burst applied at one foot intervals should be sufficient to flush out any insects hiding within them.

     Our newest product offerings Bedlam and Bedlam Plus, are residual aerosol insecticides.   These products has the advantage of being able to kill bed bug eggs.   They are provided with an injection straw for treating cracks and crevices.   Both products apply as a foam which help with penetrating into cracks and crevices while also allowing a neat application to a mattress and box spring.  The newer Bedlam Plus includes an second residual insecticide which improves performance against resistant bed bug strains.

    The other products that we offer for bed bug control include three insecticide dusts (powders).  Alpine Dust Insecticide is a new, low risk insecticide containing dinotefuron combined into diatomaceous earth which helps to kill insects with its abrasive activity on the bed bugs waxy cuticle.  Drione Dust is a combination of 1% pyrethrins, an organic insecticide (with synergist) and silica gel, a sand derivative.   The pyrethrins provide quick knockdown and kill while the silica gel, just like the diatomaceous earth,  provides long term (six month or more) control because of its desiccant action (abrasive, drying effect).   EverGreen Dust also contains 1% pyrethrins, but because that is the only ingredient, it is considered to be an organic formulation. 

     Drione Dust and EverGreen Dust may be applied to mattress tufts, buttons or handles as well as other nearby cracks and crevices in and around the bed.   Dusts are is especially useful to treat in gaps that exist between floor boards and under moldings.   Each is packaged in a squeezable applicator bottle that may used to apply it directly to affected areas.

     Alpine Insecticide Dust is not to be applied to mattresses.

     Finally, Gentrol IGR Concentrate, is quite different than the others.  Gentrol IGR does not directly kill bed bugs.  The active ingredient in Gentrol, hydroprene, acts to sterilize the adults.  Over time, the process will control and help eliminate bed bugs.  According to the manufacturer, the effects can last up to four months.  Gentrol can be used alone or combined with the Permacide P-1 to provide some long term control of bed bugs with periodic applications.  Gentrol is a very low toxic product which does not affect people or their pets in the same way that it affects bed bugs.

One of the More Difficult Insects to Eliminate

     Bed bugs are receiving a great deal of notoriety.  We have sold the referenced products to many different people from all over the US.  Some of our customers have succeeded with their treatments while others have failed.  A careful, meticulous application is the key to getting good results.

    There are professional applicators that you can contact throughout the US and elsewhere to assist you if you prefer not to attempt treating on your own.  Our suggestion is to question any company that you hire to be sure that they are familiar with performing bed bug treatments.   Use the information that we have presented here to question anyone that you hire to make sure that they are familiar with treating for bed bugs and that they will treat all of the areas that we have addressed in our discussion here.

    Finally, we are pleased to report that some newer products and techniques available to professionals are giving them improved control when dealing with this difficult pest.    It is important to be sure that the professional that you hire provides detailed information for you and guides you through the steps that will prepare you for a thorough treatment.

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On each of our pages, we invite readers to contact us by E-Mail or telephone with any questions or concerns.  We provide toll free support for our visitors.  You can speak to someone weekdays between 8 am and 4 pm, ET at 800-433-1128.  Local customers may call us at 845-356-2837. 

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Most Recent Site Update:  8/2014    -     Copyright  1997-2014

 

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