Detecting Bed Bugs

Bedbugs' nature and behavior help them operate discreetly while giving them time to populate and establish themselves and easily access their food source (you). They are efficient hiders, occupying matress and box spring seams, tiny cracks in furniture, under uncalked baseboards, in crevices along walls and flooring, and even inside electrical sockets. They can hide in places you cannot see, like inside your mattress, your electronics, under your bookshelf or inside couch. Bed bugs are usually nocturnal,  emerging to feed in darkness when their hosts typically sleep. Further, bedbugs range in size and color from nearly transparant nymphs around the size of the head of a needle to a little larger and lighter than an apple seed. Finally, the tell tale itchy bumps and welts associated with bedbug bites occur as an allergic reaction and immune response to the bug's saliva. This reaction often does not occur at first exposure, but with time and repeated exposure. It could be months before a person notices any reaction; some people never develop skin reactions.

How to Tell if you have Bed Bugs

Bed bug bites are often the first symptom of an infestation. The itchy, swollen bumps are the result of an allergic reaction to the saliva of the bed bugs. Bumps and bites alone do not necessarily mean you are dealing with bed bugs; they can also be indicative of other insects, health conditions, psychological conditions, allergies, or even environmental irritants.  

Indicators of bed bug bites vary person by person. Some people react almost instantly following a bite; others show no skin reaction whatsoever. They can appear as small bumps, welts, raised skin or look like a rash. One trait common in bed bug bites is that bites may form a triangle nearby other bites. This occurs when a bug is disturbed during feeding; when it is safe to finish feeding, it resumes nearby the original bite. Even when this trait is present during a suspected infestation, bites and welts alone are not enough to determine whether bed bugs are responsible. Invisible Itches by Michael F. Potter courtesy of Spider Spray examines possible causes of itching and skin irritation.

Visual Inspection

Visual Detection is highly unreliable, especially for small infestations. Bed bugs are extremely efficient at avoiding detection. Thorough searches by experienced professionals can take hours without revealing any bugs, when bedbugs are indeed present.

u    Visually inspect your furniture, bedding, mattress and box spring. Bed bugs hide along seams of mattresses and furniture. Some people use strips of scotch tape to pick up anything lingering in mattress cracks, making it immobile and easy to identify crumbs and lint vs. bugs. Also, this gives you time to differentiate one type of insect from another without them scurrying away. Look for rust, grey or brown specks or discarded skins (looks like the outer shell of the bed bug, usually light colored) along the hidden areas of your bed, box spring and furniture. The specks are bedbug excrements, and the skins are discarded by bed bugs as they grow into adulthood. 

·         Finding bed bugs is the most accurate indicator of an infestation, but in the absence of finding actual bugs, other signs may be present. These include reddish, copper, brown or black spots.

·         Mattresses and box springs are the most likely harborages for bed bugs. A thorough search will involve lifting every seam around the perimeter of the mattress lifting and inspecting the underside. Search the box spring more thoroughly; lifting plastic, inspecting hollow areas, padding around springs, cracks. Some people find it more convenient to encase both mattress and box spring. More on encasements.

Active detectors actually lure bed bugs into traps by mimicking a sleeping human. The temperature of the machine heats to that of the average person and the device emits CO-2, attracting bed bugs into traps and verifying their presence. This type of detection has the added benefit of not requiring a person to be sleeping at home to actively monitor for bed bug presence (a plus for frustrated victims). These machines can cost anywhere from $50- $400, requiring varying degrees of D-I-Y and assembly. Because bed bugs can travel for meals surprisingly long distances, this detection method does not pinpoint important information such as the location of harborages or eggs. 

Passive traps such as glue traps or bed bug guards rely on the possibility that a critter happens into your trap; it is more likely to detect bedbug presence as the severity of the infestation increases. Then again, the likelihood of visual detection increases with severity as well and doesn't cost anything. Using these traps can be useful following a visual search, especially if your furniture contains numerous crevices, dark coloring, or a number of hard to search places for bedbugs to hide.

Vapor steamers can be useful for bed bug detection as well following a visual search. The hot steam kills bed bugs and their eggs. Lucky bedbugs that manage forewarning will try to escape their doom, running for shelter elsewhere and exposing themselves in the process. This is a risky method, as it can cause the bugs to scatter and infest other areas of your home. By placing a barrier of Diatomaceous Earth around escape paths, along nearby walls, outlets and flooring surrounding the steamed areas, you can rest a little easier. Those that do escape will be likely to cross the D.E. and die soon after. Do not catch the D.E. in your steam path, though; it renders the powder useless. 

Detection Canines

Bed bug sniffing dogs are trained to find bed bugs through their scent. A good bedbug dog can be extremely valuable in detecting small scale infestations. Some dogs can even trace the scent to a single bug or egg. They can narrow down which rooms or pieces of furniture are infested, giving the property owner a leg up on pest control preventing un-necessary discarding of clothing or furniture. They range in cost anywhere between $150 per visit to over $1000. Check with local pest control for rates.  Though this can be an expensive option, bed bug dogs have 95-99% accuracy and can be a long term cost saver for large homes, multi-dwelling units or hotels. More on Bedbug Dogs

I only saw one...

Bedbug Dogs

Passive Detectors, Tape, and Traps

Co2 Monitors, Active Detectors and Luring Traps

Visual Inspection; Where to look and what to look for

Where bed bugs hide

Bed bugs make no distiction in quality when hunting for the next abode. Any home, hotel, or building can host bed bugs, regardless of income, zip code or good housekeeping. Even the nicest homes and hotels can harbor these unwanted pests. If you discover you pose and increased risk of picking up these unwanted tag-alongs, take extra precautions to prevent spreading them. Additionally, you will want to spend the effort on early detection methods. Early detection and diligent preventative measures can save you a lot of future frustration and the expense of a rigorous extermination plan.  

Increased Risk

Certain factors can increase your risk of exposure to bedbugs. These include:

Ø  Frequent travel

Ø  Frequent stays in places with high occupant turnover: hotels, motels, hostels, hospitals, dorm-style housing, homeless shelters, jails, or residential care facilities.

Ø  Renting connected dwellings which have a high frequency of tenants who have resided in motels, homeless shelters, hospitals or care facilities and/or negligent property management.

Ø  Neighbors in a connected multi-unit dwelling have discovered bedbugs.

Ø  You visit others who have bedbug infestations.

Ø  Regularly handling or purchasing used mattresses, bedding, or furniture. 

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