Bed bug inspections

Bed bug inspections will vary in complexity depending on: The site (private home, apartment unit, hotel, office, etc.)

The purpose of the inspection:

  • Confirming an infestation Identifying all infested areas to determine treatment tactics
  • Verifying that an infestation has been eliminated
  • The extent of the infestation (low-level infestations are typically more difficult and time consuming to inspect than are widespread, heavy infestations).

An initial bed bug inspection should include at a minimum:

  • Carefully inspecting sheets, pillowcases, and other bed linens, mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards by checking all seams, piping, straps, and other hiding places for live bed bugs, cast skins, fecal staining, and eggs.
  • Looking for evidence of bed bugs in cracks, crevices, and other typical bed bug hiding places near the beds, and areas where people have reported seeing bed bugs or being bitten.
  • In addition, inspections may include, depending on the site, and if necessary.

Such things as:

  • Inspecting inside and underneath furniture, including the removal of drawers from dressers and other items.
  • Inspecting behind pictures, wall hangings, and drapes.
  • Lifting the edge of carpeting and inspecting behind baseboards in suspected areas.
  • Inspecting for bed bugs on, under, and inside upholstered furniture.
  • Further investigation of any site where bed bug fecal material is observed.

Inspection outside the Bedroom:

  • Bed bug inspection should include areas outside of bedrooms where people spend time resting.
  • In commercial settings, depending on the extent of the infestation,
  • inspections may be expanded to other areas which may include:
  • Laundry carts, laundry rooms, janitorial closets, and storage areas.
  • Common areas such as recreation rooms, break rooms, social centers, lounges, and waiting rooms where people congregate.
  • Obtain authorization to inspect rooms or apartment units next door, above, and below, the infested room(s).

In residential settings:

  • Inspect hallways, closets, storage boxes, pet beds/cages, desks, and other areas that may harbor bed bugs.
  • Inspect the living room, family room, and other non-sleeping areas.

The goals of a comprehensive bed bug inspection should be:

  • To determine if treatment is necessary.
  • To identify special considerations such as the presence of ill residents, pets, or young children.
  • To determine the best methods of control and estimate the amount of labor that will be needed.

Top 5 Bed bug Myths

Myth 1: You can’t see a bed bug.
Reality: You should be able to see adult bed bugs, nymphs and eggs with your naked eye.

Myth 2: Bed bugs live in dirty places.
Reality: Bed bugs are not attracted to dirt and grime; they are attracted to warmth, blood and carbon dioxide. However, clutter offers more hiding spots.

Myth 3: Bed bugs transmit diseases.
Reality: There are no cases that indicate bed bugs pass diseases from one host to another. Lab tests have shown that it is unlikely that the insect is capable of infecting its host.

Myth 4: Bed bugs won’t come out if the room is brightly lit.
Reality: While bed bugs prefer darkness, keeping the light on at night won’t deter these pests from biting you.

Myth 5: Pesticide applications alone will easily eliminate bed bug infestations.
Reality: Bed bug control can only be maintained through a comprehensive treatment strategy that incorporates a variety of techniques and vigilant monitoring. Proper use of pesticides may be one component of the strategy, but will not eliminate bed bugs alone. In addition, bed bugs populations in different geographic areas of the country have developed resistance to many insecticides. If you’re dealing with a resistant population, some products and application methods may only serve to make the problem worse. It is a good idea to consult a qualified pest management professional if you have bed bugs in your home.

 

Bed Bugs FAQs

 

What are bed bugs? 

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found? 

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease? 

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose? 

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation? 

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug? 

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs? 

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs? 

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented? 

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

 

Bed bugs – Disposing of Furniture and Possessions

Disposal of beds, furniture, clothing, and other items because they are infested with bed bugs should generally be discouraged in residential situations and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

  • Disposal of infested items does not guarantee bed bug control.
  • Disposal of these items can result in a serious financial burden for residents, particularly in lower income areas.
  • Replacement items may become infested if brought into a room prior to treatment of the infestation.
  • Disposal may result in spread of bed bugs to new locations.

Mattress, box spring, and furniture encasement can be a cost-effective alternative to disposal.

Some customers will prefer to dispose of infested items even after assurance that they can be successfully treated. Hotels and other sensitive sites may prefer to dispose of all bed bug infested furniture to avoid negative public relations.

When disposal of infested materials is necessary, steps should be taken to minimize the likelihood of spreading bed bugs in accordance with applicable laws or ordinances for discarding bed bug infested items.

Items that are badly damaged and deteriorated may not justify the effort and expense to treat them and should be discarded.

  1. Visible or readily accessible bed bugs should be eliminated by vacuuming, steaming, freezing, insecticide treatment or other methods.
  2. Prior to removal from the infested area, mattresses, box springs, and furniture should be sealed in plastic to trap bed bugs inside.
  3. If left for pick-up, furniture should be labeled as bed bug infested, and then damaged to render it unsalvageable.
  4. Disposal should be coordinated with trash pick-up, or items should be taken directly to a disposal site.

Bugs that resemble the human bed bug

Bed bugs are reddish-brown, small–about ¼” long-wingless and very flat. They prefer to feed on human blood, although they may bite other warm-blooded animals, including pets. During the day, bedbugs hide near the bed. They use heat-seeking thermo receptors to find their sleeping victims at night.

Life Stages: Eggs hatch into nymphs, newly hatched nymphs are tiny-about 1/16” of an inch. Nymphs go through 5 molts to reach adult size and they must feed before each molt. Females can produce 5-7 eggs per week, laying up to 500 in a lifetime. Bed bugs grow fastest and lay most eggs between 72°- 80°F. They feed only on blood when people are sleeping or sitting quietly, often when it’s dark.

They seek shelter in cracks and crevices when not feeding. They poop out “blood spots.” Spots look like dots made by a fine felt-tipped marker. You’d see them near where they fed and near their hideouts. Adults can live over a year without a meal. Can be found in the cleanest of clean places. But clutter makes them harder to get rid of. They have no “grooming behavior”- meaning that insecticides meant to be swallowed by roaches and flies won’t work on bed bugs.

Bat bugs: The differences between these two pests are subtle and more often than not, only a trained professional would be able to tell the difference. Bat bugs and bed bugs look almost identical in body shape and color. The most useful identifying feature is their hair; a bat bug has longer hairs on their upper thorax than those of a bed bug. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to see this difference without the use of a microscope.  

As for behavior, both are blood-sucking parasites that feed on warm-blooded mammals. Although both feed exclusively on blood, their preferred host varies. Bed bugs prefer feeding on humans, while bat bugs prefer bats, as their name suggests. Bat blood is essential to the survival and reproduction of the bat bug, however, they have been known to feed on other mammals, including humans when abandoned by their bat hosts.

Bat bugs are often found inside a structure when bats have established a colony in attics, wall voids, unused chimneys, or any uninhabited areas within a building. Typically, bat bugs will be found in cracks and crevices in bat roosting areas.

Swallow bugs are found commonly in barn and cliff swallow nests, but readily invade the structures and bite humans as well. They are not incriminated as vectors of any diseases to humans, but their bite is known to cause minor to serious reactions on humans. The swallow bug is distinguished from other, similar species by its antennae, where the last two segments are the same length. This species also tends to be a grayish brown color, rather than the reddish brown of the Human Bed Bug.

Poultry bed bug: In a breeder facility, hens and roosters, typically in high numbers, are used to provide hatching eggs for broiler production. Several regions of the broiler breeder facility may serve as shelter and hiding places for bed bugs. Typically, feeders and waterers are hung over platforms made of wooden slats that provide excellent shelter for bed bugs. Also, the corners of galvanized metal nest boxes and cardboard boxes used to transport eggs are typical sites for bed bugs. Because of the high density of animals and the resulting stress, heavy infestations of bed bugs in chicken houses may lead to excessive feather loss, cloacal irritation, lesions on the breast and legs, and even anemia in extreme cases. Consequently, production may be decreased, feed consumption may increase, and egg spots from bed bug fecal deposits may be observed, potentially diminishing the value of the eggs as well as the profitability of the chickens.

NOTE: The eggs and meat are not harmed directly by bed bugs. However, there can be indirect harm such as anemia from blood loss. Bed bugs are not like ticks that remain attached to animals. They just feed for a few minutes and then run away, so the chickens themselves when sent to market should not have any bed bugs on or in them.

Psocids (Book Lice) are tiny little bugs – about 1/16 ” long and they are not actually lice at all and are harmless. But, they are still bugs and must be dealt with accordingly!

If you’ve got any dried out or decaying plants, you might find these little critters enjoying a plant buffet, or they may even be lurking around your stored food.

For identification purposes, the head and abdomen of a book louse appear large, and the midsection is narrower. Huge, compound eyes protrude from the sides of the head. They also have thread-like antennae that sweep back toward the abdomen. Not all book lice have wings, but some do (usually the book lice that stay outside), and when they do, there are four of them – two smaller front wings and two larger back wings. Most of the ones you will be hunting indoors should be wingless book lice.

The Future of Bed bugs

Today, on the downside, we have a much more mobile society, a lot more stuff, fewer chemical treatment options.

The upside is that we now have powerful dry vapor steamers and ziploc bags. Those two factors alone tell me it may be easier in some ways to live with bed bugs these days, but it may actually be harder to get rid of bed bugs.

Your best bet for getting rid of bed bugs is the same today as it was

in 1940: thoroughness;  Dr. Potter’s footnotes cite the following words of wisdom, from a 1940 pest control manual:

You can count on intensive research into more and better products to eliminate and control bed bugs as they affect more and more people. You have seen that current strategies are imperfect, and that the easiest way to successfully manage these new-to-us pests combines careful preparation and monitoring with chemical and non-chemical bed bug treatments.

But it’s always possible that totally non-chemical solution will present itself, and you can live bed bug-free without exposing your family to any product that you feel is unsafe. Because of the health reasons, it’s doubtful that that a DDT will make a return to the market place as a treatment to the bed bug problem; researchers may discover or invent another, safer pesticide that eliminates the bed bug threat. But until then, we are only left with imperfect treatments.

Bed bugs in the early 1900s

Bed bugs received a big reproductive boost in the early 1900s, when central heating of buildings became common. By the turn of the century, cast iron radiators were delivering warm air to every room in the house, a process made even easier in the 1930s by electricity, fans and forced air heating.  This enabled the bugs to thrive year-round, whereas before that, populations followed a more seasonal trend, increasing as the weather warmed. Besides being introduced on infested items, the bugs sometimes moved from house to house, escaping through exterior windows and doors and traveling along walls, pipes and gutters.

During the war years, bed bugs were transported on bedding into many public air-raid shelters. They also feasted on sleeping soldiers in barracks and battlefront trenches, and were spread on belts, backpacks, canteens and helmets. One interesting account from World War I states, “In the East African campaign the bugs invaded the cork lining of the sun helmets of the soldiers. As the helmets were piled together at night, all soon became infested and the soldiers complained of bugs attacking their heads.”

In the early 1900, a Chicago court ruled that no one shall be required to pay rent for a house or apartment that was infested with bedbugs.

In Europe in the 1930s and ‘40s, an estimated one-third of dwellings in major cities had bed bugs. In the 1930s, a survey of 3,000 moving vans in Stockholm, Sweden found bed bugs on 47% of the vans inspected, foretelling big concerns for moving and storage companies today.

 

Bed bugs in the early 1800s

As noted earlier, bed bugs became plentiful in North America with the coming of European settlers. As a deterrent, beds were often made from sassafras wood and the crevices doused with boiling water, arsenic and sulfur.

This provided only temporary relief. As villages became cities, life became crowded with people and bed bugs from around the globe. Ships and railroads afforded ideal accommodation for the bugs, and rapid transit to where they had not been before.

Hotels and boarding houses were especially buggy, and smitten travelers unwittingly carried them from place to place in their trunks and satchels. Vigilant travelers learned to pull beds away from walls and immerse the legs in pans of oil.

Others relied on pyrethrum powder: “Dusted between the sheets of a bed, it will protect the sleeper from the most voracious hotel bug.

It is during the late 1800s when the first mentions of the phrase warning against bed bugs appear. “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”  This suggests that the expression could have indeed been an actual  warning, urging people to be on guard against the biting of these pesky creatures.

 

Basics in Inspection and Detection

Live bed bugs

  • Bed bugs are visible in their adult form.  They are approximately the size of a pencil eraser, red to brown in color, flat and oval in shape
  • .Blood Stains from crushed bugs or Rusty (sometimes dark) spots of excrement on sheets and mattresses and walls.
  • Fecal spots, eggshells and shed skin may be found near their hiding places.
  • An offensive, sweet, musty odor from bed bug scent glands may be detected when infestations are severe.

Eggs / Molts

  • It takes approximately 1 month for the life cycle to go from egg to adult, under ideal conditions.  The nymph will molt  5 times in that month.

 

Fecal Matter

  •   Fecal spotting tends to appear as not as red blood but instead as dark/black      stains or smears from the digested blood that is excreted.

Blood  Spots

  • The bed bug is unable to digest all of its blood meal and therefore excretes a portion of the undigested blood on the areas where it crawls.  Another event that occurs is that as they are feeding the individual will move around in the bed and squeeze the bed bug between their body and the bedding.

Bites

  •  A bed bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow feeding tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place.