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Bed Bug Guide: Bed Bug Prevention Tips

up close brown bed bug on a white sheet

Unfortunately, bed bug infestations are becoming more common for homeowners in Saint Louis, Columbia and throughout Missouri and the United States. While many may feel embarrassed or ashamed, it is important to know that bed bugs are not a result of poor hygiene or lack of good sanitation.  In fact, nowadays, bed bugs are often introduced through used furniture, clothing, or visitors. These hard to get rid of pests could also be stowed away in your luggage while you are away for work or on vacation. Regardless of how they came to be inside your home, here are some things you need to know about bed bugs. 

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are small, elusive pests that hide in hard-to-see places throughout an infested room, feeding off of blood. These nuisance pests have been around since the early colonists. They were remote for many years but since the ban of certain pesticides in the United States, they seem to have made a comeback and continue to grow as a problem, infesting hotels, homes, and businesses across the country. Adult bed bugs are about 3/16 of an inch long and they are reddish-brown in color. They feed primarily on human blood, but may also feed on other animals such as rodents and birds. Bed bug bites may or may not be symptomatic for you. Many people do not have any reaction to bed bug bites whereas some get red, swollen spots and have a more severe reaction.

How Did I Get Bed Bugs?

Most likely, you, or someone you know, brought bed bugs into your house. A bed bug infestation is generally the result of traveling. Bed bugs are great hitchhikers and they can easily make their way home from a vacation or business trip in your suitcase or on your clothing. Hotels and airplanes seem to be a hub for infestations to spread. Bed bugs can be found on mattresses, headboards, nightstands, under the carpet, on upholstered furniture, and really anywhere where they can hide during the day, then feed on humans at night.

Places You Can Pick Up Bed Bugs

  • Libraries- Libraries are public places where people bring bags, and bed bugs can be transported in bags. It is also a structure that has a lot of hardback books, which people put next to their beds after reading. Bed bugs tend to lay their eggs in tight spaces, like in the creases of hardback books.
  • The movies- While you're nibbling on popcorn, bed bugs might be nibbling on you. Bed bugs have found a home in some movie theaters. This is because they can feed on humans while they are fully awake. It is a good idea to use the light on your smartphone to take a quick peek for insect activity when you take in the next blockbuster movie. It could prevent bed bugs from climbing into your pockets or pocketbook and traveling home with you.
  • Sleepovers- If you have young kids, you could pick up bed bugs after a sleepover. A home can have a bed bug infestation for several months before realizing it. If they do, those bugs could become your bed bugs if your child spends the night.
  • Public transportation- Bed bugs are dispersed passively. When they climb into an item and get transported, they do this by accident. They can just as easily go from one item to the next on public transportation. It is also possible for bed bugs to infest a cab, train, bus, and other vehicles.
  • Vacations- This is the most common way bed bugs come home with people. One big reason is that bed bug control in other parts of the world is not as robust as it is here in the United States. If you stay in a room that was occupied by a traveler from a country with limited pest control, you could accidentally expose yourself to bed bugs. Hotels, motels, and resorts are also prime targets for bed bugs simply because lots of people come to stay the night.​
  • Work- Since bed bugs show up in many business locations, you may be exposed when you go to work at your job. It is important to know what bed bugs look like and what signs they leave behind so that you can better prevent bed bugs from riding home with you.
  • Used furniture- While bed bugs are more likely to be on a mattress, box spring, or piece of furniture from a bedroom, they can be in any piece of furniture inside a home. Always inspect furniture or have a pest control company check those items for you. A K-9 bed bug inspector can make short work of checking many items at once.

Signs of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are nighttime feeders. They remain well hidden behind walls, furniture, picture frames, electrical outlets, under the carpet and in other secluded areas during the day. Although the name suggests they simply invade your bed, this is rarely the case. Bed bugs tend to come out at night and sense humans by our body warmth and the carbon dioxide we exhale. They will crawl out of hiding to feed and find a spot on your skin to get a blood-filled belly, leaving you with itchy, red bed bug bites. In order to inspect for bed bugs you really want to focus on looking for evidence since you are not likely to see these small insects during the day. If you suspect you have these pesky critters but cannot find any evidence, contact a professional to take a look. They are very hard to spot and easy to miss if you aren’t trained to know what to look for. Here are some of the things you can usually find if you do have an infestation.

  • Small dark spots of fecal matter or blood left on sheets after they have had a meal.
  • Light brown colored, small, almost translucent skin casings. As bed bugs grow from nymph to adult, they shed their skins, leaving behind evidence of their presence.
  • Itchy red bumps on the skin usually in a line of three. This is known as breakfast, lunch, and dinner for bed bugs. Keep in mind that not everyone reacts to bed bug bites the same way (similar to stinging insect or mosquito bites) so this is not always the best indicator.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

  • Thoroughly inspect a room you're staying in
  • Keep luggage off the ground and away from the bed until you can inspect. A bathroom is a great option.
  • Immediately washing your clothes when you get home
  • Vacuum out your luggage
  • Place luggage in black plastic bags and leave out in the sun or in a hot car to kill bed bugs with heat. 

How to Inspect for Bed Bugs

  • Look in areas you may not expect. Yes, bed bugs will be near where you sleep, so check areas around beds and box springs, but also examine your artwork on the walls, areas inside electronic devices, and behind outlets. Check along carpet edges, inside bedside tables, and even in the bindings of books.
  • Look for signs of bed bugs, not just the bugs themselves. They leave a few telltale signs behind, including brownish/black fecal spots, shed bed bug skins and even bed bug eggshells. In larger infestations, they also give off a musty odor.
  • Use a flashlight.  This can help you see better in the hard to reach areas where bed bugs are likely to hide.
  • Employ the use of a magnifying glass. Since bed bugs are so small, they can be easy to overlook with the naked eye.  Their eggs are even tinier than they are and a magnifying glass can help assist you in locating both the bugs and their eggs.
  • Clean up the clutter. Chances are that if you have a lot of clutter around, these bugs have found lots of good hiding places. You may even find the bugs while you’re cleaning up the clutter.
  • Bring in the big dogs. Literally, bed bug inspecting dogs in St. Louis can do a better job searching out bed bugs than humans could ever do because they can smell them, even the ones hiding inside your walls.

How to Treat Bed Bugs

Ok, so you found the signs above, and perhaps even a few live bed bugs. Now what?

First things first, do not panic. Bed bugs do not transmit any diseases to humans so while they are not a danger to you or your family, they are still a major nuisance. They multiply quickly and are great at hiding. Finding and getting rid of bed bugs is not an easy task and should ALWAYS be left to the pest control professionals.

Harms of DIY Bed Bug Treatment 

If you are going to treat this problem yourself, please take the time to read and follow label instructions of any and all pesticides that you may buy over the counter at your local hardware store to control bed bugs. These instructions are put out by the manufacture with the approval of the E.P.A. to help protect you from putting yourself in harm’s way.  Remember, if bed bug pesticides are misused or mixed improperly, you could be endangering yourself and your family.  

Hiring a licensed pest control professional can increase the likelihood of speeding up success in eliminating the bed bugs. Our methods and experiences can greatly speed up the eradication of this difficult pest. Bed bugs have a sneaky way of keeping themselves away from pesticides. That is why the St. Louis pest control professionals at Rottler use a combination of products with heat treatments to enhance our professional bed bug treatment plan.  

Pesticides are only as good as where they are placed, and sometimes not even that is good enough. There are some over the counter insecticide from hardware stores that bed bugs have grown resistant to. So, no matter how much product you apply you may never get things under control by doing it yourself.

Contact Local Bed Bug Professionals

Throwing out your mattress is not an effective solution to eliminate a bed bug problem since they don’t live exclusively in beds and DIY treatments can be harmful to you and your loved ones. Call the St. Louis bed bug control team at Rottler Pest Solutions and say so long to your bed bug infestation. Rottler provides the latest in bed bug control technology including bed bug heat treatments and K9 inspections to give you total peace of mind. So, if bed bugs appear, we will be there to help!

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