One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was play board games.  My parents were so mean and wouldn’t buy me a Nintendo, so my friends and I would spend rainy days at the card table we set up in the basement, playing board game after board game after board game.  As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, we had lots to choose from!  Of course there were the classics – Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Clue, and Life; but one of my all-time favorites was Bed Bugs!

For those of you not familiar with the game Bed Bugs, cute little plastic bugs in 4 different colors bounced around a plastic and cardboard bed-shaped game board, which vibrated with the help of a battery-operated motor.  The objective of the game was to be the first to remove all of the bed bugs of your assigned color, using chincy plastic tongs.  As they tended to house around pretty frantically, sometimes it was harder than it sounds (but usually not).

Nowadays, I’ve watched my children enjoy that beloved piece of my childhood – right up until they announced they’d lost all of the bugs.  Every once in a while, I am surprised to find one of those little plastic bugs in a random place around the house (usually under my foot in the dark – ouch!).
Unfortunately for us, not all bed bugs are cute and plastic.  No, real bed bugs are reddish brown, flat, and look a lot like apple seeds.  Bed bug eggs are white and about the size of a pin head, and the nymphs are somewhere in between – and may be difficult to see, as they are almost translucent if they haven’t fed recently.  They’re also very resilient – able to go a year or more between feedings – one of the reasons bed bugs are a problem facing many people.  Whether spurred by increased international travel, or a ban on popular pesticides, or overall complacency (theories vary), bed bug infestations have been on the rise in the last two decades.

One of the most common misconceptions about bed bugs is that an infestation only happens in dirty areas.  The truth is, they can happen anywhere there is a suitable host – including you or me!  Hygiene is rarely (if ever) a causal factor in bed bug infestations.  Your home can become infested with bed bugs in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Bugs and eggs inadvertently brought in from other infested dwellings on a visiting person’s clothing or luggage;
  • Infested items (such as furniture, clothing, or backpacks) brought in;
  • Nearby dwellings or infested items, if easy routes are available for travel, e.g. through ducts or false ceilings;
  • Wild animals (such as bats or birds);
  • People visiting an infested area (e.g. dwelling, means of transport, entertainment venue, or lodging) and carrying the bugs to another area on their clothing, luggage, or bodies. Bed bugs are increasingly found in air travel.
  • Though bed bugs will feed on pets, they do not live or travel on the skin of their hosts, and pets are not believed a factor in their spread.

So how does one know if they have a bed bug infestation?  Well, the first sign may be little red bumps or a rash on your skin.  Bed bugs are parasites – they feed solely on the blood of their host (usually humans).  If you see unexplained bites or rash, check your bed for the following signs:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.

If the infestation is heavy enough, bed bugs can be found in dressers, sofas, curtains, or even behind the covers of electrical outlets!

In order to reduce the risk of a bed bug infestation, we at Barrier Pest Control recommend taking a few active steps to help prevent an infestation.  First, reduce clutter.  The fewer places a bed bug can hide, the lower the chance of a problem.  Also, vacuum frequently.  A protective mattress cover is always a good idea.  Be sure to check the beds, dressers, chairs, and even the luggage racks at hotels – no matter how nice, nobody is immune (even NYC’s Ritz-Carlton – with $1000 rooms – has had issues with bed bugs in recent years).  Lastly, be sure carefully inspect used furniture before bringing it in to your home.

If you think you might have a bed bug problem, Barrier Pest Control can help!  Give us a call; we’ll come out and inspect your home free of charge.  If we do find bed bugs, we will work with you to develop a comprehensive program to rid you of your problem and make your home safe again!

CC Image By U.S. Department of Agriculture at Flickr.