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5:07 AM Thu, Dec. 13th

Ask the contractor: Bring in pest control pros at first sign of bedbugs

Q: We have a bed bug infestation and have contacted a local pest company. In order to prevent other families from having to experience what we have, please offer an educational summary for homeowners.-Name withheld, Forest Trails

A: Over the past few years, there has been a nationwide resurgence of bed bugs, creating a significant issue in the pest management industry and in society. It is difficult to control and eradicate this pest, and it is advisable to employ the services a professional.

Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

Bedbugs can move quickly over floors, walls and ceilings. Female bedbugs can lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust. Bed bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year. Although bed bugs are a nuisance, they do not transmit diseases.

Bedbugs enter homes undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but live in groups in hiding places like mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards, where they have easy access to people, which they love to bite at night.

Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.

Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged, and then crawl away.

Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

People who don't realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. If you wake up with itchy areas you didn't have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started.

Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

• Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases

• Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls

• Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide

• An offensive, musty odor from the bugs' scent glands

Getting rid of bed bugs requires integrated pest management (IPM). IPM includes intensive inspection to find the hiding places, sealing of cracks and crevices, placing mattresses and box springs inside mattress covers, removal and bagging of infested articles, thorough vacuuming, washing and drying dirty clothes, and linens, bagging un-washable items that can't be chemically treated or washed (hot cycle), and appropriate targeted and repeated pesticide treatments. Other methods being used by some pest control companies include bed bug sniffing dogs to find the bugs and heat treatments ("dry steam"), etc. Bed bugs do not like temperature extremes. Some bug infested items can be treated by bagging it and putting outside in the summer sun/heat. Whenever possible, pesticide treatments should be done by trained professionals. If people do apply their own pesticides, they should be sure to use a product that is labeled for indoor use, labeled for bed bug control and always follow the label instructions. People should never spray their mattresses, bedding or themselves with pesticide! NOTE: some pesticides when improperly used (e.g. some foggers) can cause the bugs to disperse and spread.

Always deal with a qualified licensed pest management company and only deal with companies that have experience in dealing with this challenging pest. Before signing any contract, make sure you fully understand the nature of the work to be performed, the extent of the infestation, and what exactly is covered by the service agreement. Find out if the pest control company has liability insurance to cover any damage to your home or furnishings during treatment. If a guarantee is given, know what it covers and how long it will last and what you must do to keep it in force. Is there continuing control prevention and management that you must do? Remember to look at value and not price. If the price sounds too good to be true, then beware.

Remember to tune in to YCCA's Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 am/99.9 fm or the web Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners.