Any person can name at least one characteristic of a bed bug they believe to be true, but the bed bug has been surrounded by so many myths that very few you hear may actually be true. Much of the perpetuated myths come from their similarities to many other pestilent and biting insects.
Bed Bug Basics:
- It is very easy to confuse them with carpet beetles, cockroach nymphs, or even spider beetles.
- As adults they are oval-shaped, have no wings, are a rust-red color, and are approximately half the size of an apple seed.
- Bed bugs feed on blood and a female bed bug needs a blood-meal in order to lay eggs.
- Characteristic indications of bed bugs in your home are: the site of tiny blood or fecal droplets; molted shells/skins; or eggs around the places that you sleep, in cracks/crevices of furniture, or possibly even along your baseboards.
At this time you may also be noticing small bites groupings of three. The myth that bed bugs come out at night while you are sleeping to feast is not a myth at all, this is true. The three bites made consecutively are characteristic of a bed bug and should be further investigated. To avoid reaching this point yourself, there are a few steps to follow so that you know how to prevent an infestation of bed bugs from taking over your home.
Preventing Bed Bugs at Home
Common Ways Bed Bugs Travel:
- Second-hand furniture – especially mattresses, box-springs, upholstered furniture, end even bed frames or headboards.
- Hand-me-down clothes or your own clothes that you’ve worn to a location infested with bed bugs. Their ability to attach themselves to fibers and cloth is incredible.
- It’s also very important to maintain home repairs, because it is the tiny and burrowing nature of bed bugs that makes them so resilient to eradication efforts once identified.
- Any crack or crevice is a welcome invitation for not only an entry into your home, but also a suitable place to avoid detection during treatments.
On the subject of going undetected: have you heard that bed bugs come from dirty homes? Myth. Dust and clutter that has accumulated does offer great burrowing locations for bed bugs to go undetected and reproduce into much larger numbers, but they have never produced a bed bug; so it seems a correlation has been mistaken for an explanation. If you are suspicious about a possible exposure at the last place you visited – you do not need to wait for a confirmation to start your home’s prevention. You can wash and dry the clothes you were wearing immediately using the very hottest setting available. If this is not available to you right away, you can change and place those clothes into a sealed bag until you can high heat wash and dry them.
Preventing Encounters with Bed Bugs While Travelling
Not too many people think as they’re rolling their luggage into a hotel room that the floor they roll it across and leave it to sit on may be exactly the wrong place to set down their luggage while they’re staying in a hotel. With the myth about bed bugs being a result of poor hygiene addressed in the previous Home section, we can accept that no hotel is exempt from the perils of a bed bug infestation. To prevent an infestation of bed bugs in your own home, you must take extra care to assess any current or recent bed bug presence in your hotel room.
Tips to Protect Yourself While Travelling:
- Inspect your room when you arrive and again as you leave.
- If you find any suspicious bugs, molted shells/skins, or dark droplets – report them! Your hotel wants to know; they will available forms for you to complete.
- For your purposes, there is a solution if you believe you may have been in contact with bed bugs anywhere along your trip.
- High heat washing and drying of clothes as mentioned before is effective, but if that is not an option, a blow-dryer on high heat for 30 consecutive seconds or an iron set to steam can also be effective.
- Folded clothes, zipper closures on overnight bags, and crevices of a suitcase are all ideal places for a bed bug to catch a ride home with you.
Your best defense is certainly prevention and the most successful prevention is remaining aware of possible contact or attachment locations, and how you can respond to those situations to end the bed bugs journey to house right then and there.
Preventing Bed Bugs in Schools and Child Care Settings
Bed bugs prefer places they can burrow in small, tight spaces during the day and feast on their unknowing prey’s blood at night. For these reasons schools and daycares are not frequent infestation sites. Unless, the daycare is from an individual’s home, an introduction of bed bugs into a classroom is more likely to come from a student’s home or other contact. If a student does inadvertently introduce a bed bug into the classroom, the opportunity for spreading throughout the community is increased by the close proximity of classrooms, much the same way lice spreads so quickly in these settings.
If you suspect the bug you found in class was a bed bug:
- It’s important when a bed bug is suspected to act very discreetly to avoid any embarrassment for the child.
- Until there has been a positive identification, it could simply be any other bug they’re so often confused with.
- The nurse can put the bug into a sample container, preserving as much of it as possible for identification by a professional.
- A call to the parents should be made to discuss the suspicion (without confirmation) to develop a collaboration between school and family to resolve the issue if one exists.
- The parent might bring a change of clothes so theirs can be sealed until it’s washed and dried on high heat.
Collect information and resources for the family from the local health and epidemiology departments. This can help to educate them about how to prevent an infestation of bed bugs in the future, whether they currently have a problem or not. The school will also need to consider their next steps, if it was indeed a bed bug, and/or the family was not the source.
How to Inspect your Home for Bed Bugs
We’re not quite done with tips on how to prevent an infestation of bed bugs in your home. There are still a few things that will help to put your mind at ease if you’re left wondering “Was that enough?” If you live in an apartment, rent library books, or work in the service industry then you will never be 100% protected from an exposure so you need to take the next step. This means inspecting your home to give yourself peace of mind.
Some helpful tools to achieve a thorough inspection include:
- flashlight: to see them in dark crevices and in nymph stages when they are transparent
- magnifying glass: to clearly see freshly hatched nymphs or bed bug eggs
- specimen bag/jar: re-sealable and with a tight cap so that you can transport it to a proper identification lab
- tweezers; to aid in collecting bugs for identification
- probe/putty knife/canned-air: access to cracks and crevices
- hand tools: access to wall panels or disassemble switch plates
- alcohol wipes: to test dark spot, when wiped blood appears red, feces a brown/black streak (dirt/lint – gray or light brown)
Remember to start at your bed and work outward, including all furniture, crevices, cracks, walls of any texture, in/under/on top of every piece of décor or fixture, nail holes, under bed posts, think small – they can be 1 mm and transparent, have you looked everywhere? Look for bed bugs themselves; their molted skin (any size; a very, light, flaky, shell); white eggs (best seen on dark spaces) that usually indicate a fertilized female is close by; dark red/black droplets or streaks. The more you look and the deeper you look, the better you will feel when you don’t find anything. You have committed to techniques to prevent an infestation of bed bugs and your efforts were a success; your continued commitment will keep your home and your mind at peace.