Bed Bugs – Preventing The Problem

The Common Bed Bug definitely is “back”, and daily there may be dozens of news media articles related to this blood feeding parasite. From its rare occurrence into the 1990’s the bed bug now is routinely reported throughout the United States and Canada, and in such locations as theaters, schools, busses, offices, and upscale clothing stores. Because it is now so widely recognized it is logical that a great deal of misinformation is going to be spread about it. This article in BugInfo is intended to help you understand some of the Myths and Realities of the bed bug. 

Whenever something becomes the hot item there will be a mad rush by entrepreneurs to take advantage of it by marketing their products for that issue. In the case of The Common Bed Bug, we now can find many internet sites selling you on their monitoring and control devices, or certain insecticides they claim will control the problem. If the solution for a bed bug infestation really were that easy, universities would not be spending the energy they are on finding a cure. One U.S. University, in particular, is heavily involved with research on this parasite and the products for its control, and a recent statement by them is that no insecticide or non-chemical method alone will effectively control The Common Bed Bug. To remove them from your home or some other infested structure means to kill them down to the very last bed bug and egg, and if just a few eggs are missed the problem could reoccur. In the U.S. many of the common insecticides are only partially effective, and to rely on just a chemical approach is unlikely to work.

Some Bed Bug Myths:

Bed bugs can transmit diseases to humans:
This is false. The Common Bed Bug has never been known to spread any diseases to humans or domestic animals, and this remains the current opinion. When we refer to The Common Bed Bug we mean that there are other species of bed bugs that may infest structures as well, such as bat bugs and swallow bugs that may be associated with these host animals. When Swine Flu became a major concern in 2009 it was proposed that bed bugs could be spreading this disease, but this is false. There is no evidence that bed bugs can transmit the flu, AIDS, or any other disease to people.

Bed bug bites are harmless to humans:
While it is accurate that bed bugs do not transmit diseases, and also accurate that their bite cannot be felt, the feeding of bed bugs is by no means inconsequential. Many people have no reaction at all to the bite. Most often a person may experience a red, itchy bump. But, our immune systems are of a mind of their own, and for some people the bite of this bed bug could be a life-threatening experience, caused by the serious reaction to the saliva the bugs inject when they feed. These insects are blood-feeding parasites, and a Public Health problem.

The sudden resurgence of bed bugs is an act of international terrorism:Again, false. The exact reason for this sudden reappearance of an old enemy, which was very common in the early part of the 1900’s, is not well understood. But, it is believed that several possibilities are at play, including increasing international travel, a reduced use of insecticide in the home, and possibly a lack of recognition of this pest that essentially disappeared for 50 years in the U.S. It really did pop up from time to time, but it was exceedingly rare for pest control companies to get calls for The Common Bed Bug. There even has been an accusation that the bed bug resurgence is the result of so much commerce coming into the U.S. from Asia, a claim that does not seem to have any basis in fact.

Unsanitary conditions encourage the presence of bed bugs: This is not entirely false, but since bed bugs feed only on blood, and are not reliant on finding any other sources of food or moisture, they can live just as comfortably in the cleanest up-scale bedrooms as they would in a filthy home. All they need is the presence of humans, or our pets, for their survival. However, a cluttered environment does offer bed bugs more places to hide, and this clutter could make it much more difficult to eradicate the bugs once they are established.

Bed bugs feed only at night:
False. They may prefer to feed at night when human activity is minimal, but bed bugs can sense the carbon dioxide we exhale, and they will feed at any time they can find a resting person. It also is false that they hide only in the bedroom. Most of the bugs may hide on and adjacent to the bed, but a large percentage of them will hide much further away, often within wall voids, closets, or nearby rooms.


Bed bugs only hide on the mattress: While 70% or more of the bugs WILL hide within the seams and buttons on mattresses, if these harborage sites are available, many will hide in dressers, electronic equipment, clothing, draperies, along edges of carpets and floor molding, behind objects on the walls, within the walls themselves, and inside any other crevices and holes they may find in furniture in the room. Throwing away your mattress is not necessary, and in fact is discouraged. All that is accomplished by throwing out an infested mattress is to spread the infestation to new places. Instead, have the mattress treated in some appropriate manner, enclose it in a good quality mattress encasement, and keep it for your use. Encasements are available for box springs, crib mattresses, and pillows as well.

Bed bugs can fly, or Bed bugs are too small to see:
Both of these are false. Bed bugs have no wings, and will rapidly crawl from hiding to a blood source and back to hiding. It is possible for bed bugs to drop from the ceiling and onto a bed, but it does not fly. A full grown adult bed bug is about ¼ inch long, so it is easily seen. The eggs are about the size of a grain of salt and they are white, so they would be visible if they occur on an exposed dark surface. But the female bed bug glues her eggs here and there, often within hidden places, sometimes on light colored surfaces. These eggs hatch to a tiny nymph, and even this can be seen with the naked eye as it moves across a surface.



If I don’t do any traveling I cannot get bed bugs:
We wish this were true, but the fact is that these insects are excellent hitchhikers, and manage to travel on people whose homes are infested. They are now found in many kinds of public places, including schools, theaters, busses, airplanes, and stores. The possibility exists for you to acquire bed bugs in many of your everyday activities. This is not a reason to become terrified of leaving the house, but suggests that we learn about bed bugs and be diligent in avoiding bringing them home.

I can kill bed bugs by (a.) starving them by going on vacation (b.) freezing them in the winter (c.) cooking them in the washer or dryer (d.) setting off bug “bombs”: Bed bugs have not survived for millennia because they are wimpy or fragile creatures. They can survive as the adult bug for up to 1 year without feeding. Bug “bombs”, more accurately called total-release aerosols, are highly IN-effective against bed bugs. The mist that comes out of these aerosols simply cannot penetrate into the crevices and voids where the bugs are hiding, and the active ingredient in the aerosols dissipates rapidly so the bugs are not affected later when they do emerge. Freezing does kill bed bugs, but it either must be extremely low temperatures, such as that accomplished by some commercial freezing devices, or it must be for a very long period of time. Don’t expect to open your windows in the winter and kill all the bugs. Heating is an excellent weapon against bed bugs, and a temperature of only 120 degrees for perhaps 30 minutes will kill the bugs and their eggs. Laundering clothing, bedding, draperies, and other infested fabrics, and then placing them in a hot dryer for a cycle, will kill the bugs.

If I have bed bugs I will have to throw away my computer and all other electronic items: This is not true. Bed bugs definitely can hide within electronic equipment, such as clocks, radios, TVs, computers, etc., and a pest control professional will not spray into this kind of sensitive equipment for fear of destroying it. However, a fumigant strip is available to professionals so that infested electronics can be sealed within an airtight chamber and fumigated to kill all bugs and their eggs that may be within the items.

Ultrasonic and other electronic repelling devices will keep me from having bed bugs:
Again, if it were this easy we wouldn’t be having the problem with bed bugs. The fact is that many universities have studied the various electronic repelling devices over many years of these devices being marketed to homeowners, and have never found evidence that they perform as the manufacturers claim. Whether it is for bed bugs, mosquitoes, cockroaches, rats, spiders, or any other “vermin”, ultrasonic repelling boxes simply do not work. One university researcher even branded them as “fraudulent devices marketed by unscrupulous people”.

Bed bugs are immune to all pesticides: This definitely is not true, and in fact insecticides are an important weapon for most efforts to eliminate bed bugs. It is true that bed bugs have developed “resistance” to many of the insecticides in common use today, but they are not immune to them. It requires a greater exposure to the materials than it did in the past, and many new kinds of active ingredients are being developed where there is no resistance. Successful pest management companies will normally incorporate non-chemical tools in their program, but also selectively use insecticides.

There are likely to be many more myths about bed bugs, but this is a good sampling. These are not invincible creatures, but they can be very tenacious once they become established in a room or business. This is due in part to the fact that they are so small and thin they can hide in the tiniest of crevices, and easily move through wall voids to infest neighboring rooms or apartments. They cannot be treated in the same manner you might treat to eliminate an infestation of crickets or roaches or fleas or any other pest. If you suspect you have bed bugs you should contact a Qualified, Licensed, Professional pest management company that has experience with bed bug control. Your cooperation and involvement are critical elements in the successful eradication of The Common Bed Bug.