There has been a lot of stories and articles lately in newspapers and magazines about the dramatic increase in bed bugs across the country. This alarming bug has raised many questions with my customers as to whether they have them or can somehow get them. With so many Floridians being snowbirds and spending time in airplanes, hotels and rental cars, it is an understandable question.
Bed bugs are hitchhikers, invading luggage, rental cars, hotels, movie theaters, clothes and even furniture. We have also found them in window frames and ceiling fans. Bed bugs are obligatory hematophagous (bloodsucking) insects. Most species feed on humans only when other prey are unavailable. Humans are secondary hosts, animals are their primary hosts. When animals are unavailable, humans become their acceptable host. They are attracted to their hosts primarily by carbon dioxide, secondarily by warmth, and also by certain bodily chemicals. A bed bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow feeding tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. These injected anesthetics are the reason why you don't feel them while you are sleeping. After feeding for about 5 minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place. Although bed bugs can live for a year without feeding, they normally try to feed every 5 to 10 days. Bed bugs will feed multiple times on one host, expelling their blood from the previous night just to re-feed on that same person again. Individuals that have fallen victim to bed bugs, complain of itchy, red lumps. People that travel frequently are much more vulnerable to infestation.
Bed bugs were a major problem during Wold War II when veterans returning from the war brought them back to the states. They invaded their clothes and luggage. They were all but eradicated for many years with the use of DDT. With the re-emergence of European travel, bed bugs again began to show up in the U.S. and have now become epidemic proportions. Just about all major cities are dealing with these nuisance bugs, largely because of the high density population. Hotels have become a major problem (even high end hotels) because of the high traffic flow and many hiding places that exist in hotel rooms. They are nocturnal and like cracks and crevices in which they hide until they are ready to feed. They will invade night stands, mattresses, lamps, phones, wall sockets and even cracks in baseboards and door frames. They usually stay close to the host but will begin to spread out into larger areas in other rooms if the propulations get large. Control is never easy with bed bugs but early detection is important. An out of control bed bug infestation can actually take several months to get under control. Bed bugs can live for over a year without a host but are susceptible to heat and cold. The adult bed bug can be seen with a naked eye but nymphs are not visible. Bed bugs will excrete blood so staining will be visible in whatever they infest. There are some simple steps you could take to try to avoid bringing these bugs home with you. Be careful when purchasing used furniture or clothes from thrift stores. Check clothes carefully and wash in hot water if possible. If you frequent hotels, put your luggage on the toilet or sink when not being used. Bed bugs have a difficult time climbing porcelain. Luggage is the most likely way of transporting bed bugs home with you. In hotels, look for staining along the ceiling as bed bugs like to climb the walls and hide in ceiling corners and behind woodwork. Look for blood staining on the mattress and box spring. Rental cars could be a probolem with your luggage in the trunk. Even movie theaters have had sporadic problems. If you do feel that you may have become infested with bed bugs, call us immediately. We have extensive training and experience in dealing with these pests. Don't wait! Bed bugs reproduce rapidly and can get out of control very quickly.