For most of us “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”, is a joking phrase we heard as children. However with bed bugs on the rise, this phrase has become reality to some. I just wanted to share my recent mother’s day experience in hopes that I can spread awareness about how easily you could bring bed bugs home.
For Mother’s Day, my family and I went out for lunch at a national chain restaurant in Glendale (I do not want to name for privacy reasons). We were enjoying our lunch for about 45 minutes until my mother said that her legs were becoming extremely itchy. She stated it was a “burning itching sensation”. Before Desert Termites, I worked with Phoenix Bed Bug Expert, which specializes in bed bug elimination. I had a hunch that it might be just that. So, I slid under the table and shined my flashlight under the booth. Now I have to say, I’ve seen my fair share of extreme infestations, but never this many in a restaurant setting. There were nearly a hundred that scattered as I scanned my light around. I informed the restaurant manager, and we went on our way. I used the same protocol for my entire family as I did everyday after work for the last 2+ years. We stripped to our underwear and placed the clothes in the dryer on high heat for 25 minutes. This ensured we would not be bringing any hitchhikers into the house. After the drying cycle was completed, I left to get my bed bug pesticide in order to treat the car. Normally this is not necessary, as the heat inside a sitting car in Arizona will kill any bed bugs. However the weather has been somewhat cool and may have not eliminated the little hitchhikers even if the vehicle was left out in the sun for hours. In mid summer this is never really an issue since it can get to 150+ degrees inside a car. All in all, even though bed bugs ruined a happy day, I was glad that we were able to stop a possible infestation from occurring in my parent’s home. It is just frightening that bed bugs can be picked up from any public place and be brought home so easily and unnoticed. So next time you go out, make sure that you are not sitting on an entire family of bed bugs! I will provide all the information I have learned over the years so you can protect yourself and your family from these insects.
Bed Bug Overview:
Bed bugs have been around for hundreds of years. They were initially thought to have fed off of bats in caves and slowly made their way into human homes. Bed bugs were almost eradicated from the face of the earth in the early 1950’s, but have made a come back with new pesticide resistant strains. They are typically light to dark brown in color and are the size of an apple seed at the adult stage. They have 5 life stages that are each typically obtained after receiving a blood meal. Bed bugs will feed once or twice a week depending on the season/weather, reaching adulthood in about a month. They prefer human blood and are relatively lazy insects. They establish their home on or near your bed, hence the name “bed bugs”, however they may also be seen in other parts of the home where more time is spent such as sofas, lazy boys, office chairs, etc.
How do bed bugs get in your home?
Bed bugs are expert hitchhikers. They typically hitch rides on you, your luggage, or furniture that is brought into the home from an infested area. One biological behavior that I observed was the reason behind the bed bug transfer from hotel room stays. Typically individuals leave their used clothes on the floor of their hotel room. Pregnant female bed bugs follow the scent of worn clothes as it indicates human presence. This prompts the females to hide in a pile of clothing, which in turn is packed up and brought back into your home. The female will then lay it’s 5-20 eggs that will hatch within 6-10 days time, thus starting a new infestation.
Bed Bug Bites:
Once settled in, they detect your presence by your body heat and the carbon dioxide you emit. They normally crawl out and bite in a linear pattern or a row of 3. Bed bugs have piercing-mouth parts, which is almost like a hypodermic needle that penetrates the skin. They are able to draw blood as well as inject their saliva, which possess proteins and anesthetic properties. This allows the bugs to feed and retreat back to their home before their presence is detected. The bites are usually not felt until they are already back in hiding. Most people react within ½ hour to an hour after they have been bitten. Others do not react at all. It all depends if you are allergic to the proteins in their saliva.
How to inspect for Bed Bugs:
If you suspect that you may have bed bugs, make sure to check the areas by your bed first. Since they are attracted to your body heat and CO2 emission, 99% of the time they will be located at the head of the bed, specifically the bottom of the box spring. They usually start low and work their way up as the infestation worsens. Make sure to inspect all parameters of the box spring, seams of the mattress, and screw holes/crevices of the bed frame. The evidence is easy to observe as they leave skin casings, eggs, and the fecal stains where they are present. The eggs are a bit harder to observe, as they are 1mm in size, resembling a small white grain of rice. Also, as stated before, be aware that they may also be located in other parts of the home where more time is spent.
How to protect yourself from Bed Bugs:
Protecting your home from bed bugs is a little bit more difficult as they can be picked up from any public or high traffic place. Bed bugs do not discriminate, whether the location is clean, dirty, rich, or poor. They can be pretty much anywhere including restaurants, stores, offices, churches, airports, etc.
3 steps to remember:
- The initial and easiest way to ensure you don’t bring bed bugs into your home is to not buy used or second hand furniture. There may be a previous infestation present in couches, beds, nightstands, etc.
- If you are on vacation, make sure to not place your clothes or luggage on the floor. Use the stands provided or hang up your clothing. When you arrive home, leave the suitcase(s) in the garage or storage that is not inside the house. Remove clothing and run them through the dryer on high heat for at least 20 minutes. The bed bugs start dying at around 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the average dryers reach temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure no bed bugs or eggs will be on your clothes.
- For post vacations or if you may have been somewhere where bed bugs could have been present, it is always a good idea to remove your clothes before entering your home. Bag the clothes, and run them through the dryer as explained previously.
If you have any questions about bed bugs in general that I have not covered, please do not hesitate to contact Didi, the owner of Desert Termites at (602) 677-0132. I will be able to answer almost any question or definitely point you in the right direction! If you are looking for an inspection or treatment for bed bugs, we work in partnership with Phoenix Bed Bug expert and can provide you with warrantied pesticide or heat treatments to eliminate any infestation no matter how large or small.