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Bed Bug Frequently Asked Questions*

 

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius, are small parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, ranging from 1 mm (about the size of a ball on a ballpoint pen) to 7 mm (about the size of an apple seed) and can live up to several weeks without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

According to Entomologist Ron Harrison, Ph.D., “Anyone can get bed bugs. Having them are not a sign of uncleanliness. Bed bugs only need blood to survive. We have treated for bed bugs in everything from million dollar homes to public housing.”

Bed bugs make their home in hotels, resorts, schools, dormitories, movie theaters, hospitals, shelters, buses, correctional facilities, airplanes, condominiums, apartments, office buildings, residential housing and many other locations with high traffic of residents and visitors. They generally hide during the day in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, bed linen, pillows, inside cracks/crevices, behind wallpaper and artwork, under rugs and carpeting or any other place you could think of.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

There is no clinical proof of anybody contracting any sort of disease from bed bugs, however, they can be an annoyance because of their presence which may cause itching and loss of sleep. Some bed bug bites can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes lead to a secondary skin infection.

What are the health risks of bed bug bites?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bed bug bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Despite bed bug bites not being considered to be dangerous, rashes can develop as well as allergic reactions to numerous bites may warrant medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the telltale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take a few days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include, but are not limited to:

Bed bug droppings on pillow case

  • The bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting.

  • Bed bugs in the fold and creases of mattresses, pillows and sheets (note: I have seen a LOT of bed bugs hiding in and around mattress and pillow tags).

  • Reddish, brownish–colored blood spots as a result of their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress, sheets, clothing worn during sleep and pillows (from my experience, a LOT on and inside pillow cases. Keep in mind if you find these dots on your pillow it is very likely it was once YOUR blood!).

  • "sweet" odor. In fact, some describe this aroma as being "berryish" whereas others characterize the scent as being similar to coriander (an herb belonging to the carrot family).

 

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from intense and ongoing scratching of these bites. Although extremely rare, anaphylaxis can occur in worst-case scenarios. 

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are clever little hiders. Their slim, flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. 

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation. As mentioned before, ANYBODY can get bed bugs and they do not discriminate between rich or poor, dirty or clean.

What is THE best way to get rid of bed bugs?

This is the golden question. There are a lot of variables and no two situations are the same. As mentioned earlier, Elmer's K9 Bed Bug Detection specializes in inspecting and detecting, not disinfecting. The good news is that there are ways to control bed bugs. While there is no guaranteed quick fix, there are effective strategies to control bed bugs involving both non-chemical and chemical methods.

* = Some Information provided by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, www.epa.gov and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov