Here is some basic background information on various BUGS!
Bedbugs in your bed!
Bedbugs are all over the news.
The first thing to make clear, I think, is that the presence of bedbugs makes no commentary on the conditions of the house. It doesn’t mean it’s dirty or disease-ridden. It doesn’t mean you have been consorting with unsavory characters. It doesn’t mean your children go to school with dirty little kids. Those things are possible, but not required to get bedbugs.
Bedbugs (Family: Cimicidae) are very good at what they do!
However, while these uninvited vampires suck blood and make you itch and flip out, they are not dangerous – just bothersome.
Apparently, this is a banner year for the little blood-sucking insects. The story I heard this morning was about a request from the Ohio Department of Agriculture to the federal Environmental Protection Agency to loosen the regulations on a toxic pesticide, “propoxur.”
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/us/12ohio.html) It was once available for household usage, but was banned in the 90s and restricted to industrial applications. It makes you sick if you ingest it. It can happen.
That’s usually our first response – get out the big guns!
Use potentially dangerous poison to kill tiny insects that can annoy, but not really hurt you. That has always been confusing to me – especially when kids are involved. Smaller bodies are more affected by lower doses!
Here’s a little tangent about nerve chemicals in pesticides.
We prefer to get to know the bug well enough to beat it – instead of kill it. This is a simplification of a pest control technique called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This approach involves treating the infestation by using your understanding of the pest against it to at least remove it as a problem for you – without using chemicals unless you have to. It rarely means nuke ‘em!
So, how would IPM for bedbugs work?
Identify: In any IPM effort the first most important thing to do is properly identify the pest. Sometimes this can be a very tricky job. And in some cases, you may be killing a natural enemy of the bug you’re trying to kill and making the problem worse –they can look very similar.
With bedbugs though, identification is pretty straightforward. It can be challenging and disgusting to try to see the actual bugs. They are nocturnal (active at night), so you’d want a flashlight by the bed. But, I don’t recommend this. Once you get it in your head things that look like that are in your bed, you may never be able to sleep in there again.
If you do look for them at night, the adults are about the size and shape of an apple seed. Maybe a little smaller – maybe more white than maroon – and usually shiny. You’ll see them in the crevasses and corners of the mattress and bed frame.
We don’t currently have any photos of these guys (it’s the get it in your head thing!), but here’s a link with some nice images to help with your ID.
http://www.medicinenet.com/bed_bugs/article.htm (I guarantee you, you will start to itch!)
If you’re not into dramatic confrontation, you can usually find signs of bedbug activity. There will be spotting (blood) on the sheets and frass (poop) that will just look like other, maybe yellow-ish spotting. You may or may not see empty skins or other evidence. This evidence, combined with itchy welts, is sufficient to fight back against the bugs.
What to do
Fight! But you should think of it as guerilla warfare – know your enemy!
Find them: Since these guys are nocturnal, you can get them in their hideouts during the day. They only crawl up into the bed to feed at night. In the daytime, they are in the spaces between the wall and the carpet (if you have carpet). Or they are under the rug under the bed (if you have a rug under the bed). They may be in the cracks in a wood floor (if you have cracks in your wood floor). They may be under the mattress – or in bad infestations, in the mattress.
Vacuum: Usually, you can do this on your own. You and your vacuum cleaner. Go for the edges and corners. Vacuum like crazy! While you are vacuuming, wash the bed clothes. If there is a mattress pad, be sure to wash that, too. Use bleach if you have it.
Wash bed clothes: While the sheets are in the wash, vacuum the mattress. Take it off of the bed frame and vacuum top and bottom and on the sides. Pay careful attention to the creases along the edges. Use the nozzle-head extension if you have one. If there is a box spring – give it the same treatment. This may all seem like a hassle, but these are bedbugs we’re talking about! And it beats poison!
When you have completed your assault, empty the vacuum bag! They will crawl back out. Put it outside in a covered trashcan. Don’t forget this step.
Monitor: Finally, monitor very carefully for any continued spotting or other symptoms. If you are thorough and fortunate, you will get all the eggs and everything. More likely, you will need to repeat this in about 10 days.
Retreat: Eggs are more difficult to get rid of. 10 days will allow them all to hatch but not mature enough to lay more eggs. To be certain, one more full on attack should win the day!
Get help: If this doesn’t work, and you’re at your wit’s end, call a professional. Try not to set up a contract for required repeated treatments. A follow-up inspection within two weeks is a good idea. You don’t want anyone putting any poisons around your house unless there is clear evidence of current pest activity. Make them show you before they auto-charge you for auto-applications that you may not need.
Don’t freak out - be glad you're not a cave man!