Around the House
Bedbugs can carry diseases, but they're not considered a serious disease threat. However, their bites can cause itching and inflammation. Both can be treated with topical antiseptic or antibiotic creams or lotions, which will also help prevent infections from the bites.
A Fine Mess
Unlike fleas, which typically bite ankles and lower legs, bedbugs will suck blood out of any patch of bare skin. However, since other things can cause skin irritations, bedbug infestations can go on for some time before they're detected.
In the Nick of Time
Certain types of bedbugs can also feed on birds and bats.If you find bedbug like insects, it's not a bad idea to check for signs of a bat and/or bird infestation.
Dark spots on mattresses are a sure-fire indication of bedbugs. They were once a common pest in the United States; better hygiene and aggressive pest-control measures have all but eliminated them. However, they lived on in other parts of the world, and they're making a comeback here.
Bedbugs feed by biting people when they're asleep. Some people develop localized swelling or an itchy welt around these bites. Others don't react to them at all.
Bedbugs feed at night and hide during the day. Their favorite hiding spots are where people sleep. Being flat, they can easily slip into tiny crevices in bed frames and headboards. They also like to tuck into areas around mattresses and boxsprings. They don't nest, but they will congregate in habitual hiding places.
Since not all bites or bite like reactions are caused by bedbugs, it's important to confirm a bedbug infestation before mounting an attack. Signs of one include
Dark spots and stains on mattresses, caused by dried bedbug excrement.
Eggs and eggshells, and/or molted skins from maturing nymphs.
Rusty or reddish blood spots on mattresses and/or bed sheets.
A buggy or sweetish odor. This is typically associated with heavy infestation.
The bugs themselves.
Bedbugs are extremely efficient at catching a ride on luggage and clothing. Travel to a foreign country, and you just might bring back a few with you. Other bedbug transports include old mattresses, box springs, and other bedroom furniture.
Once in a home, bedbugs easily spread from room to room. Since they only feed on blood, even the most spotless home can harbor them. As such, an infestation typically requires calling a pest-control specialist.
Diatomaceous earth, or fumed silica, consists of finely milled fossilized shells of minuscule organisms called diatoms. When crushed up, they break into tiny pieces of glass. The tiny particles adhere to insect bodies, where they scratch through protective wax layers and cause rapid dehydration.
Nonchemical controls for bedbugs include:
Regularly vacuuming mattresses, carpets, walls, and other surfaces. Pay particular attention to the edges, seams, and tufts on mattresses and box springs, and the edges of wall-to-wall carpets, which are prime bedbug hangouts.
Steam cleaning carpets, upholstery and drapes. This will kill any bugs and eggs that vacuuming misses.
Throwing away affected mattresses. If this isn't an option, cover mattresses with zippered cases designed for preventing dust mites.
Thinking twice about buying secondhand bedroom furniture. If you do, examine pieces carefully before bringing them home.
If traveling internationally, examine beds and headboards for signs of bugs. Keep luggage off the floor.
Bedbugs can't climb slippery things. Coating bedlegs with petroleum jelly can keep them from climbing up. Placing bed legs in bowls of soapy water or putting the legs inside glass jars or metal cans can also keep bedbugs from bugging you.
Residual insecticides containing pyrethroids or natural pyrethrins are commonly used on bedbugs. Dusts containing diatomaceous earth are useful in hard-to-reach places. These products adhere to the hair on pest bodies and causes death by dehydration. Application is best done by a pest-control specialist.