Bed bugs are making a resurgence in the US, in private homes, in hotels, in dormitories, and in shelters. It’s important to know how to recognize and treat bedbugs if they do occur in your home.
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are tiny wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, mainly humans (although they will feed on the blood of pets as well, if humans are not readily available). They are flat, oval bugs, usually brown in color. Adult bedbugs are a quarter of an inch long; larvae are the size of a grain of rice, and their eggs are the size of a poppy seed.
They live in warm places, in small crevices where they can easily hide. Beds and other sleeping areas are ideal, but they can also be found on other furniture and in carpeting. Because they are so small and because they hide from the light, many people do not realize they have bed bugs.
Bedbug bites resemble mosquito bites. The bites are often the first sign people have that they have a problem. If you have unexplained bug bites, you should inspect your bed for bugs. Use a flashlight so you can see well into the crevices. If you do find bugs, you’ll want to take immediate steps to treat the problem.
Everyone wants to prevent bedbugs, of course. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take.
One simple thing you can do is buy plastic mattress bags that encase your mattresses. These give bugs no place to hide. Any bugs already on the mattresses will die after being encased in the bags for some time.
Beware of bugs that might stowaway on used furniture you might bring home, especially mattresses. Examine any used furniture carefully before bringing it home. If you find any signs of bed bugs, either treat the furniture before bringing it home or just buy other furniture instead.
If you have used furniture that is infested, use care when throwing it away. (You don’t have to throw out infested furniture, however. You can treat it instead.) If you’re going to set it out on the curb, attach a notice to it indicating that it has bugs so others will not be tempted to take it home and infest their own houses.
If you do find you have bedbugs, you’ll want to treat them as soon as possible. You can treat them yourself or you can hire an exterminator to come in and do the job for you.
Bedbugs are traditionally treated using pesticides that contain permethrins and/or pyrethrins. These chemicals are effective, but they are also potentially hazardous. If you apply them yourself, wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and a facemask. You don’t want the chemicals to come in contact with your skin and you don’t want to inhale any of them.
Many people are concerned about applying potentially dangerous chemicals around their bed. After all, you spend many hours there sleeping each day. Many people are interested in natural alternatives instead.
Bed bug bites are generally not harmful. They don’t spread disease, and they usually clear up on their own with a little time, just as mosquito bites do. If you have insect bites that don’t go away, or if they seem infected, see your doctor for treatment.
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