Ask the Contractor: Bed bugs can be eradicated – with help

Q: We have a bed bug infestation and have contacted a local pest company for pest management. In order to prevent other families from having to experience what we have with the eradication process, please offer an educational summary for homeowners.

A: There is a resurgence of bed bugs and this has created a significant concern in the pest management industry and in society. At best, it is difficult to control and eradicate this pest. Bed bugs can be treated but proper management involves an effective partnership between pest professionals and customers.

Always deal with a qualified licensed pest management company and only deal with companies who 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 damages 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.

If bed bugs do find their way into your home, there are several methods of control that are available to pest control companies, some of which are vacuuming, steaming, freezing, heat treatment, mattress and box spring encasement, fumigation and, of course, the use of insecticides. Multiple service visits may be required to ensure the bed bug is properly eliminated.

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

Bed bugs can move quickly over floors, walls and ceilings. Female bed bugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime. Under favorable conditions, 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.

Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but live in groups in hiding places, typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards where they have easy access to people, which they love to bite at night.

Because bed bugs 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.

Bed bugs 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 unnoticed.

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 bed bugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bed bugs 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 bed bugs hide

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

It’s possible to pick up bed bugs almost any place—they’ve infested offices, stores, hotels, gyms and countless other places. They can hide in your luggage, personal belongings, or even on you, and hitchhike a ride back to your home. Once indoors, they can be extremely difficult to control without the help of an experienced pest specialist.

When traveling, think of the acronym S.L.E.E.P. to remember the following action steps to help avoid bringing bed bugs home with you.

• Survey surfaces for signs of an infestation, such as tiny rust-colored spots on bed sheets, mattress tags and seams, and bed skirts.

• Lift and look for all bed bug hiding spots, including underneath the mattress, bed frame, headboard and furniture. Typically, they come out at night to feed, but during the day, they are most likely found within a 1.5 meter radius of the bed.

• Elevate your luggage on a luggage rack away from the bed and wall, since bed bugs can often hide behind headboards, artwork, picture frames and electrical outlet panels.

• Examine your luggage carefully while repacking and when you return home. Always keep luggage off the bed and store it in a closet or other area, far away from your bedroom.

• Place all your clothing from your luggage immediately in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting upon returning home from travel.

When at home, follow these handy tips to help keep bed bugs at bay.

• Remove all clutter from your home, which makes finding bed bugs easier.

• Wash and dry your bed linens often using the hottest temperature allowed for the fabric.

• Closely inspect any second-hand furniture for bed bugs before you bring it into your residence.

• Inspect your residence regularly for any signs of bed bugs.

Getting rid of bed bugs requires Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM includes intensive inspection to find the hiding places, sealing of cracks & 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.

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.

Matt and Tim, owners of our local Orkin pest control company are well versed in eradicating bed bugs and have confirmed that there is a major issue with bed bugs in Yavapai County. If you think you might have bed bugs, make a call for a free inspection at 928-775-2419.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time, airing twice every weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM and now heard in Cottonwood and Clarkdale on 95.5 FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners.